Conor Oberst

Nonesuch Records, 2017

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Like many people, my interest in Conor Oberst was ignited by his album under the Bright Eyes moniker, 2002's Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground. Hands down one of the best albums of that year, that masterpiece propelled Oberst into the international spotlight. Subsequent albums from Bright Eyes had some fine moments—nearly paralleling the greatness of Lifted—though at some point my interest waned. I haven't heard any of his more recent albums, so I figured it was time to check out what the Omaha native was up to.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Speaking of Omaha, after residing in New York for over a decade, Oberst holed himself up back in his birthplace to create Ruminations over the winter. “Too Late To Fixate” starts things off with a full sound where violins, harmonicas and Oberst's boyish, confessional vocals illustrate his clever storytelling. “Gossamer Thin” follows and brings the volume down, offering a more reflective tune not unlike his work as Bright Eyes. By the third track, “Overdue,” it's apparent that Oberst is sticking with a particularly raw formula here, though some sly guitar work makes this one stand out, and the more aggressive percussion and gang vocals from “Afterthought” offer a nice addition.

While the first handful of songs are nothing to spit at, by the time we reach “Next Of Kin,” the stellar songwriting Oberst is so known for arises, with a sparse piano and harmonica ballad. This moves directly into the rowdy roots rocker “Napalm.” The middle of the album offers us the warm Americana of “Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch),” which sounds like it could have been on Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.

The second half of the album has some noteworthy moments, such as the folky “Empty Hotel By The Sea,” where organs add greatly, and the lush, classic rock influence of “A Little Uncanny,” but mostly, Oberst stays dark and sparse, with incredible lyricism to illuminate his thoughts.

An album that certainly has less mass appeal than his past work, at its core Salutations is an album with piano, harmonica, acoustic guitar and Oberst's warbling voice. Though that might not sound like much, in the hands of one of the greatest songwriters of this generation, it's plenty.

Rating: A-

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© 2017 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Nonesuch Records, and is used for informational purposes only.