Note: This is Conor Oberst’s first “solo” album since 1995’s cassette-only release Soundtrack to My Movie. Since then, he’s recorded as a member of Commander Venus, Park Ave., Desaparecidos and Bright Eyes – by far his most successful band. This self-titled release differs from a Bright Eyes album primarily because long-time producer/multi-instrumentalist/bandmember Mike Mogis isn’t involved in those roles, and Conor’s assembled a “new” group of musicians, The Mystic Valley Band. But three of the five members of his supporting cast have been either full-time or touring members of Bright Eyes and the music created here differs very little from what you’d expect on any recent Bright Eyes album.
Sound: Some stripped-down acoustic ditties, and varieties of rock that can be either playful and alt country, bouncy and indie, ragged and rootsy or Dylan-esque and folky.
Heavy Rotation tracks: “I Don’t Want To Die (In the Hospital)” (Top 20 Songs of 2008 Candidate); “Get Well Cards”; “Moab”; “Danny Callahan”; “Souled Out!!!”
Medium Rotation tracks: The rest
Recommended: This is Conor’s most accessible album to date and one of his strongest. It’s not quite on the masterpiece level, like Lifted… (my #2 Album of 2002) and I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (my #2 album of 2005), but it’s a notch above two other quality Bright Eyes full-lengths, Cassadaga (my #3 album of 2007) and Fevers and Mirrors (my #19 album of 2000). He remains the most impressive songwriter and recording artist of the decade.
Grade: A (Strong Top 20 Albums of 2008 Candidate)