Not Quite Bright
It has been 13 years since Conor Oberst’s side project Desaparecidos released their debut album. Since 2012 the band has been releasing singles sporadically, and they have come together with many new songs finally to make up their newest album, Payola. Made up of members of Bright Eyes and other emo-slanted indie rock bands like The Good Life and Cursive, a lot of feelings can certainly be expected from this record. But what makes it more interesting is the political edge included in this project. The band name, Desaparecidos means “disappeared ones” in Spanish and Portuguese, and is intended as a reference to those who have been arrested by South American military dictatorships and have not been seen again. With a name like that, it is clear from the very start this record set out to make a statement.
Musically, Payola is a very strong record. The songs are catchy, and Oberst has found himself the perfect backing band with this group. Songs like “Underground Man” have a great, energetic punk flair, while tracks like “Search the Searches” tackle their poppier side, making for a fun balance many music listeners will enjoy. Unfortunately, the fuzzy effects on Oberst’s voice and the overpowering drums and noise drown out most of the lyrics, and on a record that is so clearly intended to be political – that can really get in the way of getting the message across! Despite this, listeners definitely get an idea of what this album is trying to say in songs like “Te Amo Camila Vallejo” and “Marikkkopa.”
Fans of Conor Oberst who may have been following Desaparecidos’s trajectory since the early 2000s have likely heard a song or five from Payola, and fans of their debut Read Music/Speak Spanish will know what to expect with this new record. A nearly 15-year break between records hasn’t changed their sound much at all, though it is a touch more aggressive. Fans of any of the musicians in this group, as well as general emo rock fans, will easily find something to enjoy on this record. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 10 years for their next release.