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Album review: Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band

By on Thursday, 24th July 2008 at 12:36 pm

We’ve recently teamed up with those lovely people over at the 405 and today bring you the first of a (hopefully) regular series of guest posts from their team of amazing authors. Below is a review of Conor Oberst‘s new album, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, which is sounding pretty good.

This is undoubtedly hands down the most exciting release of the year for me, and so when tonight presented the opportunity to get my grubby mits on the leak I did absolutely not have the self-restraint to turn the chance down. For somebody who has shamelessly adored everything Conor has produced for a good 5 years now, I wasn’t really expecting it to let me down, although Cassadaga didn’t do it for me quite as much as some of Bright Eyes’ previous releases, so I was cautious in getting my hopes up too high. Good news though – this album is sensational.

My impression of the Mystic Valley Band’s efforts thus far is pretty much without fault. Cape Canaveral begins the album quietly and understatedly, and fairly reminiscent of “Wide Awake” era Bright Eyes – a mellow and steady track which is sleepy yet still optimistic. After track one the album speeds up with several upbeat, more folky songs (“I Don’t Want To Die” is surprising to say the least, knowing Conor’s penchant for suicide songs).

While the slightly skeptical and often not-quite-making-sense lyrics are out once again in force, it’s easy to tell this is Conor straight away, but there are still a lot of surprising elements that set it apart, which has reassured me somewhat since I was more or less expecting this to sound like any other Bright Eyes release despite the new band name. In several songs Conor’s voice sounds a lot less polished like it did several albums back, there’s a splash of piano thrown into “Eagle On A Pole”, and “NYC – Gone, Gone” is something else altogether.

Bright Eyes has always felt like ‘travelling music’ to me – the albums you scroll straight to on your iPod as soon as you get into the car for a long trip, or on a boat, train or plane – and The Mystic Valley Band promises to be the same. Only “Moab” actually refers to travelling, but the whole album is a journey in itself.

It seems to me Conor has always saved the best till last as far as track listings go, and this album is no exception. “Milk Thistle” stands out probably above every other song. Easily the best lyrics of all, the nicest tone and the most comforting chord progression – very “Lime Tree” which is never and will never be a bad thing.

If anyone out there was waiting for Conor Oberst to let them down they’ll have to wait a while longer. Everyone get scouring the internet or looking forward to August 5th – we just found the best album of 2008.


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