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Conor Oberst – Outer South

Conor Oberst, Outer South

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

CONOR Oberst’s Outer South is a generally good album interspersed with greatness.

Recorded at Sonic Ranch Studios in Tornillio, outside El Paso, Texas in November/December last year [2008], it features the same talented group of musicians that were present on last year’s acclaimed [and eponymous] Conor Oberst album.

And it’s a real epic, comprised of 16 tracks and clocking in at an almighty 70 minutes.

Needless to say, given such a mighty undertaking, not every track registers as strongly as the LP’s very best efforts. But when Oberst gets it right, the results are mightily impressive and elevate Outer South from the good to the spectacular.

Check out the full-on rocker Roosevelt Room as evidence of Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band at their volatile best, or the happy go lucky Nikorette, which talks of sitting in the sun eating ice-cream and not having time for a cool, cool crowd.

The guitar work on the latter track is particularly lively, brimming with melody, and working well in tandem with some piano loops.

Cabbage Patch, meanwhile, reeks of classic American rock values and possesses more than a passing similarity to early Tom Petty, while Air Mattress is just a good ‘ol fashioned foot-stomper that combines a crazy ’80s synth bassline with some rollicking guitar riffs.

Obert’s ability to mix tempos is fully evident on the low-key charmer Ten Women, which features some wonderful guitar solos, is also something to be appreciated – his own gruff vocals combining nicely with those of his fellow band-mates to keep the song fresh.

If there is a problem with the album, it’s that Oberst has probably been a little too ambitious in compiling so many songs, as occasionally tracks fail to stand-out, thereby making the highlights all the more special.

But that’s a minor quibble, particularly if you’re a fan.

Further gems come in the form of the dusky I Got The Reason #2, which hints at Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, and the album closer Snake Hill, which slow builds to an unexpectedly upbeat finale.

Until last year, Oberst has mostly known for being an artist who has recorded and performed with many other bands (most notably Bright Eyes), but with last year’s debut and now Outer South, he’s emerging as a major artist in his own right.

There’s plenty to admire.

Download picks: Air Mattress, Cabbage Town, Ten Women, Roosevelt Room, Snake Hill, Nikorette

Track listing:

  1. Slowly (Oh So Slowly)
  2. To All The Lights In The Windows
  3. Big Black Nothing
  4. Air Mattress
  5. Cabbage Town
  6. Ten Women
  7. Difference Is Time
  8. Nikorette
  9. White Shoes
  10. Bloodline
  11. Spoiled
  12. Worldwide
  13. Roosevelt Room
  14. Eagle on a Pole
  15. I Got The Reason #2
  16. Snake Hill