Modern Day Beat-Poet
For anyone who’s ever imagined their life as a quirky, independent film, Conor Oberst has created the accompanying soundtrack album with his latest eponymous release. Through emotive, trembling vocals, Oberst conjures the spirit of such American music icons as Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. The album is filled with poetic lyrics and tales of real life that do not rely on conventional rhymes to make them memorable. The lyrics insist that they be listened to with intelligent, unpredictable word combinations, such as “strange” rhymed with “hurricane” and “chloroform” with “thunderstorm.” The lyrics are just the tool, the story is the product.
The songs cover a range of emotions from the sorrow-filled “Eagle on a Pole” to the cynical and ironic “Souled Out!!!” with lyrics “You won’t be getting in / It’s all souled out in Heaven.” The more optimistic “Sausalito” encourages the listener with uplifting lyrics, “There’s no sorrow that the sun’s not gonna help.”
Throughout the album there is a feeling of openness: mistakes are common due to the lack of editing in the post mixing process. For example, on “Souled Out!!!” a flubbed lyric is left in the final track, along with the accompanying laughter. And the discussion between musicians is also audible, “Chorus again or another one?” The decisions to leave these errors in are undoubtedly deliberate, but they make the album friendlier and much less pretentious.
It is the wisdom of a traveling musician from the song “Moab” which stays with the listener long after the album ends, “There’s nothing that the road cannot heal.” Everything will be okay and there is nothing that the road, and a little music, cannot heal.