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Album Review

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. Besides the usual swatch of Middle America character sketches and the occasional political allusions, Oberst writes dialogue that travels throughout the record, questioning religion and truth and love and purpose the entire time. He knows he has to go somewhere, and he's hoping that if he just keeps moving, where exactly that is will make itself clear. "Cassadaga might be just a premonition of a place you're going to visit," a psychic says to him in the opener, "Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)," which acts an introduction to both the album's musical (slightly spacy, organic acoustic melodies) and lyrical (direction, control) themes. Oberst sees himself in a place where "everything must belong somewhere" and "death may come invisible," a place where mystics and clairvoyants can tell us as much about our own selves as we can, a place where destiny exists, a place where God is both an omnipotent "Brakeman" and a myth construed in books. Perhaps because of this, Oberst appears more unsure than he ever has. But also because of this, this lack of control, it's not an insecurity about himself that he feels, but rather a kind of shadowy acceptance of the uncertainty of life. "The 'I don't know,' the 'maybe so'/Is the only real reply," which he sings on the stormy Western dirge "Middleman," his voice accepting and empty at the same time, is the most truthful assurance he can offer. Because, despite the gravity of the ideas presented on Cassadaga, it's not a depressing or even overly serious album. Rather, it's finding what you can, be it a geographic location or a mind state, when and how you can, amid the incomprehensible world around you; it's Americana, full of folky acoustic guitars and dobro and dissent and yet, still, a kind of hopeful optimism that can't hide itself completely under the strings, clarinets, and cynical irony; it's a mature interpretation of life, not just whining complaints. "I'm leaving this place but there's nothing I'm planning to take/Just you," Oberst confesses on "No One Would Riot for Less." Where he's going — Manhattan, California, the Hague, New England, or even Cassadaga itself — he doesn't know, but he's going to keep looking until he finds it, and he's got his guitar, his simple chords, his verses and choruses, to help him (and perhaps us) along.

Customer Reviews


Conor Oberst is nothing short of amazing. If I was a more optimistic person, I would say a genius. Cassadaga is Oberst's best album to date. Better even than "Lifted...". "Four Winds" is ultimately, Oberst's feel good song. But I don't think I'v ever heard a more beautiful song than "Make A Plan To Love M." and "No One Would Riot For Less" or have I heard a string section more...orgasm inducing than in "Lime Tree." The next Dylan? Possibly. If he keeps making albums like this, he may be a contender.


This album is brilliant. I was a bit optimistic about the mass of instruments being used, but Coners vocals are steady and the the harmonies are beautiful. It is a brillinat follow up to I'm Wide Awake..which with in it's brilliance, would be hard to follow, but they've pulled it off again.

Another brilliant Bright Eyes album

I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard that the new album 'Cassadaga' was going to be more 'folk' then previous albums but when I heard Four Winds I went out and bought the album a few days after release. When I first listened to the album I didn't think there was anything special about it when I listened to t a second time I began to really like it. The lyrics are amazing and just the whole style is good. I think my favourite tracks are 'Four Winds', 'Hot knives', 'If the Brakeman turns my way', 'Make a plan to love me', but that isn't to say the rest of the songs aren't good. If you haven't listened to much Bright eyes and you are put off by the whole folk thing then try listening to some of their other albums like 'Digital Ash in a Digital urn' or 'Lifted' etc. Overall I think this is a great album and is definetly worth buying.


Formed: 1995 in Omaha, NE

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although many musicians have joined the band's rotating lineup, Bright Eyes is primarily the songwriting vehicle of Conor Oberst, a quivery-voiced Nebraska native who first attracted attention in 1994 -- when he was only 14 years old -- as the singer and guitarist for Commander Venus. Oberst proved to be a prolific musician, joining multiple bands (including Commander Venus, the Magentas, Park Ave., and Desaparecidos) while also co-founding Saddle Creek, an influential label that helped broadcast...
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