I’ll just come right out and say it: I have never listened to Bright Eyes before. *Gasp!* I know, what kind of music fan am I, right?! Before this year, I had no idea what kind of music Bright Eyes played or who Conor Oberst was, but to redeem myself, I had heard of both. With the release of the Bright Eyes frontman’s new solo album, I took the opportunity to finally grace my ears with the magnificent voice of Conor Oberst. And as I expected, I was not disappointed in the least. This album,the 11-track Upside Down Mountain, will appease any folk or indie rock listeners and, of course, fans of Bright Eyes.
In “Time Forgot,” I fell in love with the combination of acoustic and electric guitar sounds that were prevalent throughout the song, as well as the harmonies between Conor Oberst and the female vocalist. It was the perfect introduction to his sound and the album. So far, so good.
“Zigzagging Toward the Light” has a similar acoustic sound, but I was surprised to hear the Hendrix-esque electric guitar that concluded the song. Oh but what’s this? “Hundreds of Ways” not only reverts back to the acoustics, but goes almost full-on country. Alright, Oberst, I see what you’re doing there; you’re keeping me on my toes.
As I progressed through the album, I discovered what can only be one of the many reasons people love Bright Eyes and Conor Oberst; only four tracks into Upside Down Mountain, I had heard at least three different sounds, but he does them all very well. I feel as though Conor Oberst is quite similar to a chameleon, with the ability to adjust to any type of music and do it well. Yes, Upside Down Mountain encompasses quite a bit of country, folk, and acoustic tones, but the dash of electric guitar twangs in those songs, the Spanish flare of “Artifact #1,” and the more rock sound of “Kick” showcase Oberst’s wide range of abilities as a singer-songwriter. From country crooner to modern rocker, Conor Oberst wears each face (or technically voice and sound) well.
Other notable tracks include: “Night At Lake Unknown,” which is a beautiful tune that I think would be a great soundtrack for a rainy day; and “Governor’s Ball,” with its background vocals and hints of saxophone that are reminiscent of decades past but is incredibly fun, full of energy, and unlike anything else on the album.
But just as serenely as the album began, it ends with the ever-so-lovely “Common Knowledge.” And now I realize why it is common knowledge that Conor Oberst is a great musician. Upside Down Mountain, out May 19th, is a great listen from start to finish and amidst his own sound – the “trembling voice” that is said to have shaped the lighter, more intimate side of indie rock – the variety of sounds helps to maintain interest throughout the album. I will definitely be checking out Oberst’s previous albums, Bright Eyes included, and you can absolutely count me in as a fan from here on out.
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