Conor Oberst Releases Intimate New Solo Album

Conor Oberst, the singer, songwriter and leader of the trailblazing band Bright Eyes, has a new solo album. Critic Tom Moon thinks Upside Down Mountain is his most intimate and engaging work in years.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Since he first began attracting attention with the band Bright Eyes in 1998, Conor Oberst has been busy. He's founded two record labels, started several bands and recorded a prolific amount of songs. The Nebraska singer largely avoided releasing albums under his own name, but this week brings a new solo album. It's called "Upside Down Mountain." Reviewer Tom Moon says it's his most intimate and engaging work in years.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: It's a special talent, sounding like damaged goods on demand.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME FORGOT")

CONOR OBERST: (Singing) Polished my shoes, I bought a brand new hat, moved to a town, the town took off.

MOON: Lots of singer/songwriters try it. Some manage a vague sense of hurt and that's about it. They don't have stories to tell. This is not Conor Oberst's problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME FORGOT")

OBERST: (Singing) I want to walk in that howling winter that's scattered all my thoughts.

MOON: Oberst takes advantage of his wounded vocal affectation, uses it to layer meaning into carefully wrought songs. This one begins as a fairly ordinary account of a wandering soul. As we hear about what he longs for, a profile emerges of a person hounded by shadows, trying to escape something.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME FORGOT")

OBERST: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

MOON: Throughout this album, Oberst's characters struggle with the quagmire of memory. A bunch of the songs explore what it means to hold on to the last glimmer of a very much vanished love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ARTIFACT #1")

OBERST: (Singing) Life can't compete with memories that never have to change.

MOON: Alongside those raw moments are more even-tempered examples of storytelling. One of them borrows and then improves upon the theme of Harry Chapin's ode, "Cats in the Cradle."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU ARE YOUR MOTHER'S CHILD")

OBERST: (Singing) I remember the day you appeared on this earth, (unintelligible) like the ocean got blood on my shirt, from my camera angle, it looked like it hurt, but your mom had a big ol' smile. We drove you home, saw your yellowing skin, packed a few things and drove you back again. Stayed up all night worrying, wondering what was going to make it better.

MOON: That is surprisingly old school songwriting. Turns out Conor Oberst can work at conceit with the best of them. This new collection shows Oberst has grown significantly as a craftsman, but he's held onto the elements that made his earlier writings so compelling, the wordy fever dream verses, that perpetually troubled delivery. He calls this record "Upside Down Mountain," but it sounds like a career peak.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HUNDREDS OF WAYS")

OBERST: (Singing) Don't (unintelligible) don't you look so scared. Don't get so...

CORNISH: The new album by Conor Oberst is "Upside Down Mountain." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.