By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Perhaps that's why the LP is so majestically maudlin, as Oberst sang on Morning's perfectly poignant "Poison Oak" — "the sound of loneliness makes me happier." And if that's the case here, he's at his happiest yet. Listen to "Eagle on a Pole" and its isolation, "Cape Canaveral" and its snapshot longing, and "Moab," with its indeterminate belief that the road will heal everything. There were hints of this joyous woe in Bright Eyes' last outing, 2007's Cassadaga, especially in the quietly anthemic "If the Brakeman Comes My Way." But here the flower has wilted in full bloom.
And that is the album's essential beauty. Like Leonard Cohen's infamous line about there being a crack in everything and "that's how the light gets in," Conor Oberst reveals the happiness of heartbreak, the loveliness of loss, and the utter warmth of solitude. Oh, it's not all "woe is me," but when it is, it's terrific.
Which brings me back to Omaha and its slate-gray composition. No one could stand such a shade without seeing in it something other than its surface — a crack, if you will, that brings about illumination — and no one could have lived through such solace without finding in it some beauty. Conor Oberst might now call New York his home, but in his blood, bones, heart, and soul runs the color of the town from which he came. To me it was simply gray; to Oberst it is breathtaking.