Album Review – ‘Upside Down Mountain’ by Conor Oberst

There’s a reason so much of Generation Y know who Conor Oberst is, and the indie-folk rocker’s sixth album Upside Down Mountain shows how easy it is to warm to him and his music. The former Bright Eyes singer moves away from previous albums which were vague in their chase for deep artistic thought (especially The People’s Key), and it’s clear to see that Oberst has matured a lot since his rise to fame in 2005.

The songs on the album are much more simple than his work with Bright Eyes which featured seven-minute long intros and other similarly tedious effects, and it reminds you that Oberst can still spin a heartfelt song with just a guitar and his own musings – he does this best on ‘You Are Your Mother’s Child’, and whilst it won’t win any awards for exceptional song-writing, his trembling vocals lend themselves to the story about a teenager’s upbringing.

“But you are your mother’s child, and she’ll keep you for a while.
But one day you’ll be grown, then you’ll be on your own”

This is not to say that the album is void of any complexity – Oberst successfully melds other genres into songs without going overboard (as he has done in the past). The use of the wah pedal in ‘Double Life’ in particular works very well, and the electric guitar sits well with the acoustic strumming.

The weakness of the album, which is unusual for Oberst, is the lyrical make up of the songs. As you hear the plectrum scrape the strings with the plucky bass (particularly heard in ‘Governor’s Ball’), you’ll hear lyrics that may have you thinking uneasy thoughts – “I chased the rapist chasing after you” he sings in ‘Lonely at the Top’ (which perhaps refers to the rape allegations he was facing earlier this year). Whether or not this was the effect that Oberst was going for, it doesn’t help the easy-listening vibe that comes off many of the tracks.

Whilst Oberst may not have reclaimed his moniker of the ‘New Bob Dylan’, he has definitely moved onto the right track after his lacklustre releases post-2008 – the slow country songs with an alternative twist are a good listen for anybody.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

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