Thursday, May 28, 2009

If you like Bright Eyes...

If you like - or love - the band Bright Eyes, you may well be interested in this review of the new CD Outer South by Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. Written by Chris Holehouse of The Epic Times.

Conor Oberst knows how to tell a story. The Midwest native and front man for the band Bright Eyes, also has quite the knack for casting his poetic hymns across a great melody. Enlisting the help of the Mystic Valley Band, Oberst and friends venture into some interesting musical territory on "Outer South," a soothing ride through an acoustic countryside, brimmed with ample twang and polish.

"Potential, you're a loaded line," opens the 29-year-old indie songwriter in "Slowly (Oh So Slowly)," a rock-enthused number that mixes rowdy with playful and features Oberst's patented metaphor-doused reflection.

Potential may seem like a dismissible idea to Oberst, who's 10-plus years ascent to stardom has been seemless, granting him showers of praise and Bob Dylan comparisons, and winning him Rolling Stone's Top Songwriter award in 2008. But on "Outer South," we see Oberst sidestepping the reigns and letting band mates Nik Freitas, Taylor Hollingsworth, and Jason Boesel sew their vocal seed.

"Big Black Nothing" features a haunted Freitas sporting his Tom Petty camouflage in a tension-mounting groove that seeps into Hollingsworth's tongue in cheek, "Air Mattress," an innocent plea with spunky synths that Elvis Costello could call his own.

Still, the tracks where Oberst does take the vocal lead tend to dwarf his collaborators throughout the disc. While it's not totally apparent who wrote which songs, Oberst's magical ability to transcend intimacy and sing as if he was in the flesh and not echoing through a speaker ("White Shoes," "Ten Women") is what truly brings weight to all the Dylan comparisons and makes "Outer South" memorable.

"To All the Lights in the Windows" takes props from R.E.M.'s "Bang and Blame," but it's not a bad thing.

Outside of just a few different cuts, "Outer South" actually keeps Oberst's usual plaintive melodies on the down low and marches toward a more optimistic appeal. With a blend of different vocalists and six contributing members, The Mystic Valley Band sit well next to Oberst and help him chisel another accomplished notch on his songwriting belt.

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