Release Date: Apr 10, 2007
Record label: Saddle Creek
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Call him pretentious, call him sensitive, call him what you will, but there's no denying the fact that Conor Oberst is a talented and intelligent songwriter. Actually, it's probably more correct to say that Bright Eyes are a group of talented and intelligent songwriters, because it's the pedal steel, the clamorous percussion, the orchestral arrangements, the thick background vocals that add to the songs in Cassadaga -- the band's fullest and most developed record to date -- almost as much as the lead singer's own wobbly voice and sharp lyrics. Because the album is, like all of Bright Eyes' albums, very much about the words.
Review Summary: Cassadaga pairs Conor Oberst's country obsessions with an orchestra as he spins more personal stories and puts politics in the backseat.Releasing two drastically different albums and giving each album their own individual tour proved a bad idea for Conor Oberst back in 2005. Through his extensive touring, Conor dabbled in drugs, cursed out DJ John Peel while high on mushrooms, and the tabloids exposed him and Winona Ryder. He got sick of everything and needed a break.
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.
Named for a Florida spiritualist community, Bright Eyes' seventh studio LP takes its tenuous conceit from communion with the dead. Although Conor Oberst has never been particularly well-attuned to voices outside of himself, Cassadaga manages a better balance of the political and personal as exemplified on "Four Winds" and "Cleanse Song." Saddle Creek über-producer Mike Mogis accentuates Oberst's continued channeling of Dylan with dusty layers of mandolin, Dobro, and pedal steel, while Gillian Welch, M. Ward, and Sleater-Kinney's Janet Weiss, if not fully taken advantage of, at least provide depth throughout.