Cassadaga (2007) Conor Oberst: songwriter savant, indie-rock pinup...Traveling Wilbury? It certainly sounds that way on the 27-year-old singer's seventh Bright Eyes album (he's been recording since he… 2007-04-10 Bright Eyes Rock
Music Review

Cassadaga (2007)

Bright Eyes | OBERST
OBERST
EW's GRADE
B+

Details Release Date: Apr 10, 2007; Lead Performance: Bright Eyes; Genre: Rock

Conor Oberst: songwriter savant, indie-rock pinup...Traveling Wilbury? It certainly sounds that way on the 27-year-old singer's seventh Bright Eyes album (he's been recording since he was 14). Whereas 2005's breakthrough I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning incorporated folk and country influences — Emmylou Harris sang on several tracks — it was also immersed in the narcotic-soaked urbanism of New York City. Cassadaga, on the other hand, goes in search of a (perhaps imaginary) heartland redolent of roadside bars and dusty truck stops — exotic American locales like the title town, a central Florida enclave known for its concentration of psychics. Musically, it's his richest album yet, full of Nashville twang and Branson brassiness. And lyrically, the itinerant-traveler conceit is intriguing, even though its sweeping scope lacks the almost masochistically intimate power of earlier material.

Oberst, always precocious, clearly has the knack for a strong hook and a well-turned phrase (see ''Hot Knives'' and ''Classic Cars''). Still, Cassadaga's sound is at times too mature — a staid boomer suit fit too loosely on his Gen-Y frame. (An exception? ''Make a Plan to Plan to Love Me,'' a Spector-tinged dream of girl-group coos.) Guests like Gillian Welch and M. Ward lack the impact of Emmylou; their contributions are quieter, if no less accomplished. And that's okay: In the end, Cassadaga is about Oberst — and the country that made him.

Originally posted Apr 06, 2007 Published in issue #929 Apr 13, 2007 Order article reprints