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iTunes Review

Cassadaga contains epic songs filled with colorful snapshots of American places and characters, and it aims to cover some ground. There are allusions to current events, politics, and injustices past and present, shadowy metaphors, clever one-liners, and the kind of nakedly personal songs that first earned Conner Oberst his reputation. He packs a lot of lyrics into these tunes — many are engaging and some are delightfully impenetrable, but they're certainly never dull. Some talented guests, including Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, and M. Ward, join Oberst here but it’s his regular bandmates who are the glue. Multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis (who also ably produced the album) and Nate Walcott (various keyboards) are particularly inventive, creating an exuberant, sprawling blend of country shuffles, folk rock, and dreamy ballads with organ, swooping strings, and weepy pedal-steel guitar. The skillful production and attention to detail make this Bright Eyes’ most polished release, and the sonic textures, ambient sounds, and snatches of conversation work well overall. Ambitious and cohesive, Cassadaga presents an intriguing twist on the band’s brand of folk music.

Customer Reviews

Not Just an Album, But an Experience. Buy it in Stores, for This Record Has So Much To Offer!

Call me an "old soul," but nothing gets me going like purchasing a brand new cd from a local emporium, unwrapping it, and thumbing through the album artwork. Without actually even listening to the cd itself, a careful observer can learn a lot about the author's thought process and vision. And what a vision it is. Conor Oberst and the bright eyes crew have fashioned yet another album chock-full of genius, intricacy, and depth. At first glance, Cassadaga's artwork is sparse and minimalist; unconventional and strangely beautiful (basically, in the same vein as their other brilliant albums). However, when I realized that the Cassadaga logo (pictured in the iTUNES artwork) is not actually on the CD casing itself, but a sticker on the plastic shrink-wrap, I had an inkling that this album would inherently stand out from previous efforts. The bleak white-noise like images seem carefully constructed, and when I opened the CD case it was clear why. Inside the left pocket was a "Spectral Decoder" from "Cassadaga, FL." Now, I had done my research and was marginally familiar with the mysticism and spirituality associated with this community, but I was not prepared to find such an interactive album. This looking-glass reveals beautiful pictures hidden in the gray static, images of mountains, the earth, and what seems to be a picturesque little community. The sheer creativity of this idea is mind-blowing, and its execution is even more spellbinding and mystical. The decoding of the album's mysteries is as much a trip as listening to the disc itself. It is most sonically reminiscent of 2005's "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" in its sweeping musical arrangements, pristine production, folksy style. But overall, it is less subdued than its largely acoustic predecessor. Rather, Conor Oberst and the gang pick up a certain country theme with this record, including the characteristic layered steel guitar and vibrantly powerful string sections. Cassadaga opens with "Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed) in true Bright Eyes fashion, starring a strange woman's voice rambling about directions to Cassadaga through Arizona and Texas (or something like that) as a soft acoustic guitar creeps in and Conor takes over the song with a newly realized country sound and apocalyptic, epic violins. (Think "The Big Picture" meets "A Day in a Life" meets "Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two"). The album rushes onward with country-pop gems "Four Winds," "If the Brakeman Turns My Way" then later with "Soul Singer In A Session Band," "Classic Cars," "Middleman" and finally with the standout "I Must Belong Somewhere." These tracks are among album's most prolific and intricately beautiful songs. Elsewhere, we have "Make a Plan to Love Me" and "Cleanse Song" which take a low-key and almost romantic approach to the mystic theme of this record. Additionally, "Hot Knives" and "Coat Check Dream Song" seem to offer a glimmer of the loud intense Bright Eyes we knew in "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" and "The Calendar Hung Itself...". In fact, these two songs almost sound like they would fit perfectly on "Digital Ash," has they been played not with an acoustic and country-driven vibe, but an electronic and beat-driven one. Of course, these songs fit the mood perfectly and merely hint at the sound of a fierce and sonically-heavy band. Finally, the song "Lime Tree" caps the album off with a Lua/Poison Oak-esque low-energy feeling. What we are left with is a sonically satisfying Bright Eyes album that (i can guarantee you this) will not get the credit it deserves with regards to the beauty of the record as a whole. Conor Oberst has been labeled as "The Next Bob Dylan," and I'm sure critics who are waiting for him to become Folk Music's Hero will be somewhat disappointed with this album, for it will not blow them away in the same manner that, say "Highway 61 Revisited" originally did. But what we have here is an album that oughtn't have any staunch expectations, and it should be taken as a true music-listener's record. Perhaps that style of crafting music isn't really in style anymore, in an era where digital media has forsaken album-oriented music. This album was meant to be listened to as one unit, it was meant for the reader to fumble around with the "Spectral Decoder" and discover Cassadaga's mysteries. It is a shame that, despite Bright Eyes' best efforts, most people will just be receiving files on a computer and not a concrete disc with exciting visual goodies. I'm sure iTUNES' digital booklet attempted to capture some of Cassadaga's magic, but I can guarantee that it is not the same. So, I suggest that you, dear reader, purchase this album in-store, so you can experience Cassadaga as it was truly meant to be. Discover the mysteries yourself, absorb the music on your own, appreciate both the songs and the presentation, and I'm sure you will fall in love with the mysticism and magic of Cassadaga.

Not close to "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning"

This album definitely marks a turning point for Conor and Bright Eyes but I'm not so sure I like it at all. Let me begin by saying I am a big Bright Eyes fan and have listened to all of their music...I have everything they've released be it full-length albums or EPs and am going to see them in concert this May. However, after first listen of this album I am bummed to know that the show is going to consist mostly of these songs. If "I'm Wide Awake..." (in my opinion their best album by far) represents Oberst as a cool and clever Dylanesque songwriter, this album seems to be some sort of Johnny Cash without the Badass-ness effort. In my opinion the best song would have to be Four Winds, which I had already fell in love with, with the release of the Four Winds - EP; it was incredibly disappointing to me to anticipate this album for so long only to find a bunch of songs I'd normally skip through. Everyone's going to talk about how mature and grown up Oberst is on this record but why is that a good thing? I think what so many love about Bright Eyes is that teen-like angst and pain that his voice possesses paired with his witty and captivating lyrics...this album just seems far too pretentious and frankly boring. Hopefully my opinion will change upon further listening.

Not What I Expected, But Better

This album was more eclectic than the Four Winds EP had led me to expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how well-thought out and fantastically arranged it was. I am sure there will be a lot of people who will have a negative comment because Conor's voice does not produce a traditional, pop-star vocal, but his songwriting is practically unparalleled in today's music industry. Obviously songs like Four Winds are perhaps catchier than something slower, like Lime Tree or the EP's Smoke Without Fire. But songs like I Must Belong Somewhere and No One Would Riot For Less pack an equally strong punch. Overall, this album was worth the wait and worth pre-ordering. I suggest anyone seriously interested in good music should buy it.


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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