Bright Eyes
Cassadaga
(Saddle Creek)
Conor Oberst needs to stop with the audio art installations that open every album. If they were interesting or entertaining, that would be one thing. But they’re indulgent and boring, so stop it, because what he’s doing here is detracting from the lovely lead track “Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed),” which forlornly addresses war, religion and cheap fame in three minutes. Guitars and strings and voices collide on Cassadaga in a ragged chorus of rage and unrest writ melodically against the skyscrapers and flashing lights of Oberst’s adopted hometown of New York. He’s still wondering if men in higher places are talking to god, but the god of Cassadaga has many names, and Oberst doesn’t trust him in any form: “The Bible’s blind, the Torah’s deaf, the Qur’an’s mute/If you burned them all together you’d get close to the truth/Still they’re poring over Sanskrit on the Ivy League moons,” he sings on the rollicking single “Four Winds.” Before his political awakening Oberst rivaled Chris Carrabba for wordy sad-sack love songs; now he’s an indie heartthrob and he’s tired and he puts it to us straight: “Yeah, I’ve been fucked, so what?” Cassadaga is a rousing and beautiful record from a guy who has yet to buckle under the pressure of being the Voice of His Generation, but still self-aware enough to try and live up to it.
Tara Thorne
categories: Coast pick

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