23 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Although the past month-and-a-half has been full of decent music releases, I still find myself extremely cautious when it comes to purchasing a new CD - especially when it's a musician/band that I've never heard before. Even those that seem popular (Fall Out Boy's Infinity on High), or those you think you would like (Grindhouse: Planet Terror/Death Proof soundtracks) can be very disappointing. So, I often try to discover new music and do a lot of searching for musicians who I haven't heard before. From my latest search, I heard about Nebraska's own Conor Oberst and his band Bright Eyes, and their new release, Cassadaga. Regardless that this album had received mostly good reviews, I remained objectively cautious and did as much researching as possible before I decided to give them a try.
I had read all the comparisons of Oberst to Bob Dylan and comments on how inventive Oberst is with his music and lyrics. So, with that, I decided to lay down the $10 and pop Cassadaga into my CD player. Before even listening, one can't help but notice the alubm cover which there's more to than you think. Inside the sleeve there's a "spectral decoder" (like something you might find in a Cracker Jack box) which is already laid over a part of the sleeve where you can read "These myths are sacred and profane!" Interesting. I took out the decoder and moved it around the entire album cover and inside sleeves, seeing pictures and various odd quotes which I thought was a really cool concept and wondered why no other artist's had done this before.
The first track, "Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)" starts off with a weird voiceover/recording of a woman prattling on about traveling to Cassadaga, Florida, played over music one might hear in a horror movie. Two minutes and twenty seconds into the song, Oberst bursts in with his lyrics, sounding more like a Leonard Cohen song than one of Dylan's ilk. Right away I can spot Oberst's talent with songwriting, however, "Clairaudients" so far is my least favorite track on the album, which is tricky to start off an album with such a mediocre beginning. I like Leonard Cohen and Oberst's vocals, but the woman's recording is simply too much of a distraction from the actual music. After an outro of more of the weird woman's recording, the second song "Four Winds" begins with a heavy violin, mandolin and guitars. Most people who review this song say it has a heavy country influence to it. I disagree. This song is all Irish folk/pop (think The Pogues) with the singer making references to religion and a lyric ("The Bible is blind. The Torah is deaf. The Qur'an is mute/If you burned them all together, you'd get close to the truth") that makes the listener know that Oberst means business when it comes to songwriting and getting his point across.
Next, my favorite track, "If the Brakeman Turns My Way," is when we start to hear the heavy Dylan-like music. But this isn't your 60's folk-y Dylan. This is Dylan in the '80s - but with lyrics that are just as morally significant and poetic. I especially like the lyrics "Got a cricket for a conscience always looks the other way" and "I never thought of running/My feet just led the way." It's a song that talks in a roundabout way about faith (I wonder if the "Brakeman" is Oberst's other name for God) and finding a way to be comfortable with yourself and life. And Bright Eyes sets the tone for the album with this one. Track four is "Hot Knives," which is slightly harder in music and in lyrics, but still has that sound of Irish folk bordering on rebel music, but with strings too. The singer starts off singing from the point-of-view of a wife confronting her husband's mistress and then goes on a spiritual journey to start anew.
"Make a Plan to Love Me" has been described as a song with orchestra that sounds as if it could be played at some 1950s high school dance and that is a great way to put it. With female backup singers (among them the beautiful, talented Rachael Yamagata, who not only has put out a few of her own albums, but has also sang backup for the likes of Ryan Adams, Jason Mraz, Rhett Miller and Ray LaMontagne) that sound like 50's groups The Teddy Bears ("To Know Him is to Love Him") and The Paris Sisters ("I Love How You Love Me"), Bright Eyes sings of a desperate man who pleads with and asks the woman he loves to at least try and love him. While this song may come off creepy to some, the lyrics reveal that this man has a reason to be taking the approach he does as the object of his affection "first want(s) to ride off into the Sun/Then you want to shoot straight to the Moon." Again, this song is different from its predecessors and it's nice to hear an album made up of extreme eclecticism. The next song, "Soul Singer in a Session Band," brings back the heavy Dylan-like sound, but this time sounding like mid- to late-70's Dylan (when he was with The Band) with some undertones of honky-tonk piano thrown in. The title explains the absurdity of such a talented singer singing backup in a minor band and that's how the Oberst feels as he belts out lyrics like "I was a hopeless romantic, now I'm just turning tricks." He feels lost and this is his poetic response to his station in life.
"Classic Cars" is probably my second favorite on the album and features Gillian Welch on backup vocals, sounding 90% folk/pop and 10% country. "Cars" speaks of a woman who the singer once had a fling with but the relationship ended. As the song comes to a close, the singer gives us a glimpse into the downfall of the relationship as he advises to "never trust a heart that is so bent it can't break." This is a track that has to be heard to be appreciated and my only complaint is that the song isn't long enough. The eighth song is "Middleman," with a sound mix of Tim Buckley and Ryan Adams, and featuring woodwinds with a single violin throughout that comes off sounding like bluegrass folk but not your stereotypical bluegrass.
The woodwinds continue (and feature much more prominently) on "Cleanse Song" with Oberst working his acoustic guitar to poetic lyrics dealing with life and how all of its sorrows will pass. It's a jumpy song and the shortest on the album at about three-and-a-half minutes. "No One Would Riot for Less" is a silent, slow song of apocalyptic proportions with lyrics like "So love me now/Hell is coming/Kiss my mouth/Hell is here." It's got a dark feel to it and isn't as noticeable a song as the rest on the album, even though at a little over five minutes, you can tell Oberst wants it to be noticed. This continues on to "Coat Check Dream Song" with slide guitar and ending with weird Hindu chanting. I give Oberst bonus points for working in The Hague into a song as well as very well-done poetic descriptions, but it still makes this song easy to forget.
Luckily, Bright Eyes romps us back into motion with "I Must Belong Somewhere." With heavy organ and mandolin, "Somewhere" is a knee-jumping limerick ode to Oberst finally beginning to realize where he belongs. It changes from the dark tones of "No One" to a hopeful, new beginning, and, by this point, I'm only happy to smile along with Oberst as he chooses to stay in the place he's grown to love. The last track, "Lime Tree," returns the tempo to slow (although, not dark) but continues the message of Oberst finally taking that first step toward his happiness in a place he chooses to be. Of course, he references with deeply profound metaphor, singing, "Everything gets smaller now the further that I go/Towards the mouth and the reunion of the Known and the Unknown/Consider yourself lucky if you think of it as home/You can move mountains with your misery if you don't." He even ends the song abruptly with a lyric one might imagine Henry David Thoreau singing: "I took off my shoes and walked into the woods/I felt lost and found with every step I took."
Cassadaga certainly is a road trip of the soul for Oberst. Luckily, he takes unabashedly brings us along for the ride. And like any road trips when you were young (and not so aware of the world), it takes a while for the true meaning of the experience to sink in. That's how I feel about Bright Eyes' Cassadaga. The only thing you should be sure about before purchasing this album is that it's not a rock album, it's not your David Gray-sounding album, and it's definitely not a pop album. It's a genre that's so hard to put into words because it mixes a bit of every instrument and voice. Oberst can sound like Cohen first, then transition into a bit of John Lennon or Dougie MacLean before going into Dylan. Oberst proves that he's a true musician and dips his feet in all kinds of genres. I like it, though. It's nice and refreshing and something I definitely want to pop in my CD player while on my long commutes to work.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
E. M. Vlutters
- Publié sur Amazon.com
After experiencing his own `dark night of the soul' Conor Oberst went through a period of introspection and transition. Cassadaga is a result of this process, and the album clearly has a spiritual dimension.
It opens with the voice of a clairvoyant advising the inquirer to spend some time in Cassadaga, a small town in Florida, inhabited by an unusual high percentage of psychics. This opening has been characterized by many as New Age nonsense, but is in fact essential, as it opens a window on the album's landscape: "Casadaga may be just a premonition of a place that you're going to visit..." Oberst uses the name as a metaphor for a process of growing awareness. Key words are: journey, transformation, change, new era. He explores this mystic world with healthy scepticism, but also with empathy and sincere interest. One must separate the wheat from the chaff, but at the same time be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water! Cassadaga is full of references to spiritual matters. You can look upon the album as it being merely a collection of beautiful popsongs, but in a broader perspective they form a unity and a concept, and they can be seen as reflections of a process of liberation and self-realization.
Our world is a grim place: "It's kill or be killed!" Conor Oberst paints a world of shallow erntertainment and blind fundamentalism, a world full of `Peter Pan's. Many sell their souls (Soul Singer), sacrifice love to greed (Make a Plan to Love Me), or choose an existence of grey mediocrity (Middleman). Classic Cars tells of lost love, and Coat Check Dream Song shows the twisted mind of the terrorist. The skyscrapers on Manhattan, the financial heart and soul of western civilisation, are `the new pyramids', symbols of an Empire which ended on 9/11 (Cleanse Song). Death hides in many and unexpected corners, and we'd better not waste our precious time (No One Would Riot For Less). "The Bible is blind, the Torah is deaf, the Qur'an is mute, if you burned them all together you'd get close to the truth" is another pregnant statement. Institutionalized religions offer no solutions anymore, we must start from scratch and find our own truth. The brilliant Four Winds leans on one of the most beautiful poems of W.B.Yeats - The Second Coming - with one big difference: Yeats talks about the rise of the evil and destructive powers which threatened the world in the first half of the last century, while Conor Oberst refers to the powers of Good, which will gain space to manifest themselves where Evil has collapsed. Yeats's `gyre' of history has reached it's widest stretch and will collapse, the centre cannot hold any longer: "And when Great Satan's gone... the Whore of Babylon... she just can't remain with all that outer space, she breaks... she caves." Opposites are a theme in the album, and by reversing the meaning of Yeats's poem Oberst creates a new balance, and in doing so he promotes an optimistic view of life in spite of all evil in our current world. "Awake, Baby awake, but leave that blanket around you, there's nowhere as safe..." The message is clear: wake up, but keep going inward (the blanket imo being a metaphor for meditation), stay with your Self, that's the only safe place! The solution to all our problems lies within us, and our ultimate task is finding unconditional love and compassion within ourselves. Only then the history of this planet will turn for the better. The message is not new, it is spread by all great religions and gnosticism, but religions are frozen solid in dogma's and inconsistent behaviour, and do not appeal to most people any longer. It's up to us now!
In I Must Belong Somewhere Oberst speaks of accepting the world as it ís; in this world everything has it's place, and we should no longer resist to whatever we cannot change, because our resistance causes our negative attitude. Our meddling is pure arrogance, for: "... the world requires no audience, no witnesses..." We must surrender to The Greater Scheme, the continuous evolution of the universe, a process which is beyond our comprehension. It means living in the here and now, fully aware, and with a compassionate heart. This submission to the Infinite (or Divine for religious believers) Plan obviously originates from buddhism, but is also elemental in, and in fact connects, all main religious philosophies. Insight and submission (enlightenment) are hindered by our daily worries and problems, our cravings and our denial (Lime Tree). Oberst has seen glimpses of liberation, knows that all ado grows smaller the more one enters the Unknown (which is in fact the Known, as this cosmic knowledge lies buried in all of us, we only have to rediscover it). Submission takes place, there is distancing from those who are `pleased with a daydream', and surrender to the Unknown, as is illustrated by the last lines of the album: "I took off my shoes and walked into the woods, I felt lost and found with every step I took."
Oberst' lyrics take my breath away. And the music offers a perfect bedding for those lyrics, as is shown right from the beginning where the voice is surrounded by a swirling vortex of sounds which draws you within. The rising and fading sounds seem a reference to the elemental movements of every particle in our universe: expanding and shrinking, arising and passing away. It is the endless movement Yeats refers to with his `gyres', and Oberst with `as the spiral unwinds.' Circles and cycles often appear in the lyrics, like opposites they are spiritual symbols. Multi-layered lyrics combined with a strong, attractive and supporting production create an artistic unity that is exceptional in the least, especially considering the singer's young age.
In an interview with a Dutch magazine Conor Oberst remarks: "The album is neither about a quest nor about the town of Cassadaga. I like to think Cassadaga reflects the feeling I experienced when returning from there: authenticity, peace of mind. Ever since I was there I feel I no longer carry any suffering with me." Isn't that what we all would wish: peace of mind and liberation from suffering? It is what buddhists call enlightenment - if it is permanent - and temporary glimpses may be a big step towards this enviable state. Oberst also says: "I would like to see my songs interpreted in a million different ways. Then the magic of music stays intact." I agree with him there. Observing the album from a spiritual view is just one way of interpreting it. But even the packaging of the CD seems to indicate we should put on different glasses and look for the invisible: the textbook shows a grey cover, apart from a few twisting lines. But when you place the enclosed focal decoder on the cover it turns out a world is hidden behind the grey! Cassadaga, and all its implications, only becomes visible through different eyes. I don't think Conor Oberst would ever do anything at random in his work. I think every detail has its meaning!
Cassadaga is an awe-inspiring album. With every spin it reveals more of its richness, and Oberst has firmly placed himself among the few Gods who reign from the top of my musical Olympus. After the equally monumental Lifted - Or the Story Is In the Soil, Keep Your Ear To the Ground, his much more accessible I'm Wide Awake It's Morning was a slight disappointment to me, even though that album certainly exceeds the average. I hope his future work will continue to be of the same outstanding quality as Lifted -... and Cassadaga.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Michael Brent Faulkner, Jr.
- Publié sur Amazon.com
For a good couple of years, I've heard a lot of hype about Bright Eyes (essentially Conor Oberst) and how fantastic they(he) were (was). I had never purchased, nor listened to an album by Bright Eyes, so I couldn't pass judgement because of a lack of knowledge. I got a few promotional downloads from Bright Eyes's 2005 releases (DIGITAL ASH IN A DIGITAL URN & I'M WIDE AWAKE, IT'S MORNING), and I was only slightly impressed. I never heard the complete album of either, but I read a number of mixed reviews. It made me apprehensive to give the so penned "singer-songwriter of the future" a real chance. However, after reading generally favorable reviews of 27-year old Oberst's latest Bright Eyes project, CASSADAGA, I couldn't resist the temptation to purchase the reasonably price album and determined if I was a Bright Eyes fan or not. Honestly, CASSADAGA really impressed me and made me a believer in what Oberst pens in his lyrics and sings vocally. Sure, he isn't the best singer, but neither is Bob Dylan, but his lyrics are quite telling and perhaps that's what most important in a singer-songwriter.
The album opens up with the incredibly mysterious orchestration of "Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)". The mysterious mood lingers for a couple of minutes into the track before Oberst ever sings a note or the song establishes a groove. Once you fight past all the oddities, the "meat" of the track is worth the wait. The hook, is certainly tuneful, with the central message being "kill or be killed". Oberst's lyrics are taut,confident, and telling. Sure, "Clairaudients" odd string crescendos and "unruly" harmonies are a bit hard to grasp, but "Clairaudients" proves to be an exceptional opener, and paves the way for the even better proceeding track, "Four Winds".
"Four Winds" sounds like it could've been feature on a country-traditionalist album with its "fiddle" laced production work, and it's inherent bluesy feel. Oberst pulls this track off better than "Clairaudients". No, he isn't vocally the strongest singer, but his lyrics and the exceptional songwriting make up for any slack where vocal perfection is concerned. The hook here is incredibly catchy and coupled with the infectious fiddle riffs, "Four Winds" is definitely one of 2007's best tracks. "If The Brakeman Turns My Way" begins with Oberst only accompanied with acoustic piano, and then sparse organ, pedal steel, and bass lines lead into a full-on drum groove. It proves to be another killer track. The lyrics are as strong as ever and everything seems to be settled into a groove. The background vocals add a nice touch during the chorus, proving how versatile Oberst is as a songwriter and musician.
"Hot Knives" is perhaps my favorite from CASSADAGA. The songwriting is top notch, where Oberst apparently channels a female character. The guitar work here is fabulous, and one can't forget the power of the lyrics ("the son of God, hanging like a common criminal" or the blunt "So I've made love, yeah, I've been f**ked"). Which ever obscure lyric is chosen, it is masterful, which in makes "Hot Knives" one of the strongest performances of CASSADAGA. "Make A Plan To Love" continues the line of hits, with beautiful background vocals (including Rachel Yamagata among others)and simple, but yet complex production (Oberst wants you to make inferences). "Soul Singer In A Session Band" and "Classic Cars" also prove strong, as does "Middleman", in which more country influence shows.
The last couple of numbers ("Cleanse Song", "No One Would Riot for Less", "Coat Check Dream Song", "I Must Belong Somewhere" and "Lime Tree") are fine, but not as strong as the first eight tracks. "Coat Check Dream Song" is perhaps the strongest of the last five, even though it doesn't quite rival say "Hot Knives". Despite a slight fall off of the end of the album, Bright Eyes has clearly proved his point to me that he just might possibly be the "Bob Dylan" of the new generation. He is a great lyricist and musician, and he isn't a terrible vocalist, if not the greatest. This album isn't perfect, but for the most part it is right on point for me. 4 stars, Conor!