There will be some who say that this is Conor Oberst’s best album, that his most recent self-titled record is a healthy evolution into more adult song writing—I am not one of those people. All of the songs on the album seem to fall into three categories: his old stuff (good), his Bob Dylan stuff (bad), and his country pop (worse).
The first song, “Cape Canaveral”, is of the Bob Dylan variety. This and the other songs like it have the same basic foundation as Bright Eyes-era music, but with less whine and more cheese. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy these tracks. But there were a few (“Lenders in the Temple”, “Eagle On a Pole”, “Milk Thistle”) that made listening to the album all the way through worth my time. Although less melodramatic than songs on his previous albums, they maintain the quintessential Oberst finger-picked guitar lines, and endearing emo-boy charm.
The way I see it, Conor Oberst should only be allowed to record using an acoustic guitar and anything he might find in his back seat, but certainly not an electric guitar. Songs when he attempts to use said instrument (“Moab”, “Souled Out!!!”) come off as very Tim McGraw-esque, and that’s a very bad thing.
My advice to you—if you like Conor Oberst as a musician—just pick up the three individual songs mentioned above (“Danny Callahan” is decent too.) If you like him as a poet the album is worth getting, but you will likely be disappointed. Conor Oberst, the album, is out next Tuesday (8/5) via Merge Records.