Conor Oberst is easily one of the most polarizing artists in the indie world. His exorbitant poetry and hyper-cool delivery can draw the masses in close or repel with brute force. For most of his career, he’s been held to an impossibly high standard of being the New, Perfect Dylan. Bright Eyes’ midwestern-style rock and Oberst’s extensive ability to write interesting, complex lyrics will probably never allow him to escape that image. On Bright Eyes’ seventh album, Cassadaga, the band churns out an authentic and talented view of America that may not live up to the public’s ridiculous Oberst standard, but will, at least, develop his legend further.
Cassadaga begins morbidly with the orchestral uphill grind on "Clairaudients (Kill Or Be Killed)", which eventually resolves into a slow acoustic narrative before lushness creeps in and turns the song around. It’s easily the most dynamic track on the album. The next track, "Four Winds", the first single features the impossible-to-ignore "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" violins. But, beyond that, it’s a deep tale of an apocalypse set to barn party music. From this point, Cassadaga goes into cruise control with a general theme of anecdotal alt-country tunes.
On Cassadaga, Oberst employs some of his more aching vocals and tends to draw out melodies with strain. While his petition is no "Please Mr. Postman", he touches on far deeper subjects on the slide-guitar melancholy "If The Brakeman Turns My Way". Oberst even puts a little personal strain into the mid-tempo "Soul Singer In A Session Band". As far as his narrative skills, Oberst still remains in his own class among contemporaries.
While Conor Oberst’s song-writing skills are lyrically untouchable and talented musically, Bright Eyes’ latest album doesn’t reach a corresponding level of passion. The thoroughly alt-country sound and saturating vocals coast on a rolling highway for miles, without many significant turns or elevation changes. It all just comes down to Oberst having another solid notch in his belt.