I was surprised by how good this album actually is. It's about ten times better than Fevers and Mirrors. I found the overly tremulous voice too hard to take on that one, despite the quality of the songs. Here his voice sounds smoother most of the time, and with the odd exception, less feverish and ranty. The lo-fi production which varies in texture from track to track, is really excellent. With alot of albums, you feel you're just sitting in the studio for the whole of the duration, but here, you feel like you're being taken to lots of different places, with lots of different atmospheres. Conor Oberst is still quite highly wrought in his delivery, but it's significantly more controlled than before. It's probably best not to pick out individual tracks, as the thing works best as a whole. And after listening to it once, I thought it was a minor masterpiece. One that alot of effort had been put into, to get it right. It's not an album I'd want to listen to over and over again, but one I'd listen to when I was in the right mood. It feels like a film, an intimate portrait of smalltown life, occasionally upset by the bigger picture (to use the title of the first song). A couple of tracks attempt to pull the work out of solemnity, but thankfully, they are fighting a lost cause, and the down mood pervades like a really rainy day. One that makes a person feel deeper than they thought they were. There is pain here, of course, alot of it. But it feels like it's at one remove for the listener. Like the sharp edges have been smoothened. And this is a positive step for Conor Oberst as an artist. He is no longer allowing his pain to eclipse his art. The two are blended here without too much conflict, which makes this album a genuinely artistic achievement.