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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid 6th from Oberst & Co.
The latest Bright Eyes album is easily one of the finest alt. folk (or whatever brand of Americana you want to label them under) records released this year. In fact, it's their finest effort to date - it's warm, mature and lacking in much of the pretension of their previous efforts.

It's not all about Oberst's quivering delivery and often sharp thought...
Published on 27 July 2007 by J.

versus
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Heard worse but haven't kept it
I was in places reminded of Al Stewart and his "Year of the cat"-relatively catchy songs until you hear them a few times and then the clean voice and the prententious lyrics hasten it to Oxfam. OK there is a song or two here worth the candle but comparisons with Dylan are ludicrous. There is a complete lack of edge here which excludes it even from a loose classification...
Published on 31 May 2010 by Gizmophobic


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid 6th from Oberst & Co., 27 July 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cassadaga (Audio CD)
The latest Bright Eyes album is easily one of the finest alt. folk (or whatever brand of Americana you want to label them under) records released this year. In fact, it's their finest effort to date - it's warm, mature and lacking in much of the pretension of their previous efforts.

It's not all about Oberst's quivering delivery and often sharp thought provoking sentiments contained in his words, it's the sheer majesty of the country tinged musicianship (the pedal steel, the riotous percussion, the warm background vocals) and the arrangements that make the songs of `Cassadaga' so accessible and endearing.

2005's releases were, at times, exceptional (especially the more stripped down `I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning') and they certainly suggested that despite the quality of their output to date, there was something quite amazing yet to come from the young Oberst & Co.

`Cassadaga' is more of a sequel to `I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning' as it recalls the flow and atmosphere of the tales within its song cycle. However, as much as it evokes the tuneful element of the aforementioned release, it also delivers on the promises within 2002's sprawling `Lifted, Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground'.

There's the Middle America characters and the political referencing that earned Oberst the `New Bob Dylan' accolades, yet the writing appears to be much more realized (the lyrics aren't just smart, but at times honest). The incredible `Hot Knifes' and the single `Four Winds' carry the recurring themes: religion and truth. In fact, much of the album rotates around the idea that life, like the haven the album is named after, is just that ... an idea (as the lady states amongst the noise of the opener, `Clairaudients': "Cassadaga might be just a premonition of a place you're going to visit").

This is the band's fullest and most developed record yet. Musically and lyrically it's ambitious, and although sometimes the ambition overwhelms its initial impact the intrigue pulls you back in.

Sure, the themes presented can be deemed as `heavy' - as it focuses on the questions around life ... such as our purpose - but `Cassadaga' is quite the opposite, it's a lifting listening experience and appears to be free of the burden of some of their previous records (there's much less anguish on display).

This could quite possibly be Bright Eye's masterpiece ... as important as The Arcade Fire's `Funeral' - in that it highlights that somewhere, among the thousands of generic sounding guitar bands out there, there's real music.

You could find yourself submerged in this album.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bright Eyes, 23 Jun. 2008
By 
J. Hull (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cassadaga (Audio CD)
Cassadaga took me by surprise upon first listening. The once raw stripped down, almost "unplugged" sound of previous Bright Eyes releases was taken away and replaced with a much cleaner, more produced sound. That's not to say that Conor Oberst has given in to acclaimed mainstream stardom, his style remains, and his ingenious poetry still manages to captivate and touch in ways only previously accomplished by Bob Dylan. A tough analogy indeed, but such is the quality of Bright Eyes lyrics, and a comparison made so quaint and often in todays society where each Bright Eyes album has brought the "wunderkid" more and more critical acclaim upon each release.

The album opens as expected with any Bright Eyes album, a slow building attack on mainstream music - usually including atmospheric noises and speach, as a way of telling everyone that this is something you have not heard before, and you would not expect it on anybody else's CD. The song eventually evolves into a beautiful acoustic Indie Folk track, very similar to work from his previous album "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning".

"Four Winds" is the first single to be released, which showcases Oberst's new polished sound coupled with a "firefly soundtrack"-sounding string quartet so aptly used through the whole album. Soaring acoustic guitars and powerful strung chords coupled with fragile honest lyrics shows one of Oberst's best songs to date. Obviously a God-fearing man, but knowledgable of the increasing problems in todays society, his broad vocabulary tells the lot in an trully extraordinary track.

"If The Brakeman Turns My Way" is another different sounding Bright Eyes track, led by simple piano chords. His strong intuition on using chord progression is brought across wonderfully, and he manages to captivate emotion and setting to perfection on this sombre tune.

"Hot Knives" sounds similar to some of the tracks from 2002 outing "Lifted..." - with a fuzzy effect surrounding the guitar work. Again, Conor Oberst's emotive lyrics and fragile, often narcissistic voice bring out the true beauty of the song, and his poetic writing ceases to astound time and time again. The song eventually fades into the beautiful, soulful "Make a Plan to Love Me", where the full orchestra backs the folk singer to create an atmospheric slice on the album.

"Soul Singer In a Session Band" and "Classic Cars" sound like some of Ryan Adams work (not a bad thing at all) - and give the album a sort of Rock 'n' Roll, Bluesy feel, adding another twist to the ever changing Bright Eyes sound. "Middleman" showcases, in my oppinion, one of Oberst's best songs to date. The string quartet slouching along with the finger picking guitar and jungle beat drums adds another turn in the sound of the album, and creates a very quaint, warm feeling to the album.

The sound quickly changes, however, to the melancholy "No One Would Riot For Less" - another politically charged song, deep in emotion and musical depth - not that you would expect anything less from a songwriting genious such as Conor Oberst. "Coat Check Dream Song" sound like some of Bright Eyes more upbeat, electronic stuff, reminiscent of previous album "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" - with heavier, dominating drum beats and more frontal lyrics, rather than his subdued style often portrayed on this outing.

The closing songs "I Must Belong Somewhere" and "Lime Tree" close the album wonderfully, switching back to the acoustic, folkey sound - again very similar to some of Ryan Adams work, and possess powerful, honest lyrics about life, and lonliness and compassion. The album surely closes, and leaves a fulfilled feel in your stomach.

All in all, an absolutely fantastic release in which everybody will gain something from. Oberst's vast knowledge on many a subject; always an oppinion to share, and always a song to sing. His obsessive compulsion to create masterpieces is becoming a formality, and one that his listeners are welcoming with open arms.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Impressive, 26 April 2007
By 
Mr. S. C. Hopkinson (Warrington, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cassadaga (Audio CD)
I had never heard anything by Bright Eyes until over easter, when they did an interview on radio one at something like midnight. They played a stripped down version of 'middleman', and i knew i was hearing something special. the album is no different. Current favourites are 'if the breakman turns my way' and 'hot knives', but each song is a gem. Might need a couple of listens if you are new to them, but their style is something you'll come to know and love. Lyrics are inspired as well, although not as politically driven perhaps as other albums, although there are several strong ideas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make a plan......, 9 May 2007
This review is from: Cassadaga (Audio CD)
I have enjoyed Conor Oberst's music for a few years and I feel that "Cassadaga" is without question one of his finest collections of songs. Thoughtful and thought provoking and personally I cannot fault this album. Some of the string arrangements and woodwind sections are sublime, there is an alt country feel to some tracks but that should not put anyone off. The more I listen to this album the more rewarding it becomes, I wish that more people were aware that there is still great music being made.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Album of the year contender, 10 April 2007
By 
IWFIcon - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Cassadaga (Audio CD)
The last time Conor Oberst released an album he released, well, two. It was ironic, of a fashion, that it was the "less experimental" one, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning that actually garnered most attention. That's not to say that Digital Ash In A Digital Urn was a bad album but it was one that didn't really play to Oberst's strengths.

It is perhaps telling then that Cassadaga is more "Wide Awake" than "Digital Ash". And it no less the thrilling for that.

Sure there is nothing here that will convert the doubters, of which there are more than a few it has to be said, but neither is there anything that will put any doubts into the minds of those that believe in him.

Indeed, songs like Four Winds and If The Breakman Turns My Way are up there with the best things he's ever put on record. Make A Plan To Love Me maybe even better. It's Oberst at his most simple, its an unabashed and straightforward love song, but quickly transplants itself onto a higher plain with the minimum of fuss.

I've never quite got my head around the "new Bob Dylan" proclamations, although at his best Oberst can channel that communal spirit that serves Dylan so well, but there's little doubt in my mind that this is a fantastic album and better than Dylan's recent efforts by quite some way.

It's definitely up there in terms of albums of the year so far.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real grower, give it a chance and you will like it, 2 Aug. 2007
By 
Scott Mackie (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cassadaga (Digipack) (Audio CD)
This album is, as the first reviewer said, a real grower. It takes a good few listens before you start to pick out the different instrumental subtleties that run through the album. I still find myself picking out a bit that I never heard before. The best songs on this album are four winds, when the brakeman turns my way, soul singer in a session band, cleanse song, and middleman.
The only problem with this album is that it suffers from Conor Oberst's typical pretentiousness which has given his music a bit of a reputation as "music for people who take everything too seriously". That said - there are some real gems on this album, just give it a chance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best Bright Eyes album yet?, 6 Mar. 2008
By 
Andy Sweeney "music was my first love" (Brighton, East Sussex) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cassadaga (Audio CD)
Conor Oberst's follow-up to 2005's I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning sees him writing and performing what is probably his most clean-sounding, straight forward country/indie/rock album so far. Gone is the ramshackle, home-recording sound of previous efforts, instead he has opted for a solid, well-produced very full sound and it really has paid off - Cassadaga is fantastic. The sprawling Clairaudients (Kill Or Be Kill) opens the album in a typically leftfield manner and, on the first listen, makes you wonder which direction this album is going to take, but the jaunty violin intro of the highly enjoyable Four Winds betrays the opener as a red herring and provides the groundwork by letting the listener know how the rest of the album is going to progress.

If The Brakeman Turns My Way, featuring Jason Boesel from Rilo Kiley, is an early highlight on an album packed full of excellent songs. It's a country-soaked, imagery-laden piece of brilliance, with a timeless, epic feel and is another strong contender for song of the year. The tumbling, rolling Hot Knives follows, another very big song in terms of sound and ambition and, by this time, it's apparent that this album is something very special indeed. Special just about adequately describes the extraordinary Make A Plan To Love Me, a soft, deliacte, sumptuously orchestrated and arranged ballad, which could touch even the hardest heart.

Soul Singer In A Session Band is a trademark, life-affirming Bright Eyes song which could easily have been a standout track on any of his previous releases and would have fit right in on Lifted or Wide Awake and boasts a brilliant country-violin solo. Equally good is Classic Cars, a country-folk stormer which swells and lulls like the ocean. Other highlights include No-one Would Riot For Less and I Must Belong Somewhere, but you would struggle to find a song on this album which could even be described as average - it's all good.

Cassadaga is the sound of an artist fulfilling his potential. An album with a huge heart, songs with strong appeal and yet impeccable artistic integrity. Lyrics with a big heart which paint pictures of characters, landscapes and provide political commentary as well as remaining grounded, connecting with the audience, telling stories of love and life. This is an amazing album, almost certainly the best complete piece of work that Conor Obert has written and released. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid 6th from Oberst & Co., 11 Oct. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cassadaga (Digipack) (Audio CD)
The latest Bright Eyes album is easily one of the finest alt. folk (or whatever brand of Americana you want to label them under) records released this year. In fact, it's their finest effort to date - it's warm, mature and lacking in much of the pretension of their previous efforts.

It's not all about Oberst's quivering delivery and often sharp thought provoking sentiments contained in his words, it's the sheer majesty of the country tinged musicianship (the pedal steel, the riotous percussion, the warm background vocals) and the arrangements that make the songs of `Cassadaga' so accessible and endearing.

2005's releases were, at times, exceptional (especially the more stripped down `I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning') and they certainly suggested that despite the quality of their output to date, there was something quite amazing yet to come from the young Oberst & Co.

`Cassadaga' is more of a sequel to `I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning' as it recalls the flow and atmosphere of the tales within its song cycle. However, as much as it evokes the tuneful element of the aforementioned release, it also delivers on the promises within 2002's sprawling `Lifted, Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground'.

There's the Middle America characters and the political referencing that earned Oberst the `New Bob Dylan' accolades, yet the writing appears to be much more realized (the lyrics aren't just smart, but at times honest). The incredible `Hot Knifes' and the single `Four Winds' carry the recurring themes: religion and truth. In fact, much of the album rotates around the idea that life, like the haven the album is named after, is just that ... an idea (as the lady states amongst the noise of the opener, `Clairaudients': "Cassadaga might be just a premonition of a place you're going to visit").

This is the band's fullest and most developed record yet. Musically and lyrically it's ambitious, and although sometimes the ambition overwhelms its initial impact the intrigue pulls you back in.

Sure, the themes presented can be deemed as `heavy' - as it focuses on the questions around life ... such as our purpose - but `Cassadaga' is quite the opposite, it's a lifting listening experience and appears to be free of the burden of some of their previous records (there's much less anguish on display).

This could quite possibly be Bright Eye's masterpiece ... as important as The Arcade Fire's `Funeral' - in that it highlights that somewhere, among the thousands of generic sounding guitar bands out there, there's real music.

You could find yourself submerged in this album.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a truly inspiring record... brilliant, 3 April 2007
This review is from: Cassadaga (Audio CD)
I wasn't sure how well Bright Eyes would cope, following up from the massive success of the last two - so was mightily relieved to hear the strengh of songs on Cassadaga.

Loving the country-vibes on Four Winds, but there's a real depth and range of styles on this record, as we've come to expect from Conor and gang. If The Breakman Turns My Way has a cool, Lou Reed feel combined with that same hooky, heartfelt appeal evident on so much of 2005's I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. Other stand out tracks for me include the beautiful, orchestral Make A Plan To Love Me. Elsewhere, No One Would Riot For Less and final song Lime Tree are effortlessly brilliant.

If you're a die hard fan of Bright Eyes already, you probably need no encouragement - but if you're a newcomer to the band, my advice would be to get this album asap! You will not be disappointed.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A shining example of Americana done well, 24 May 2007
By 
This review is from: Cassadaga (Audio CD)
Given how much I loved `I'm Wide Awake It's Morning' and enjoyed `Digital Ash in a Digital Urn' I was extraordinarily nervous of what `Cassadaga' was going to bring. Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes helped reignite my appreciation for music a couple of years ago so I would have been genuinely upset if this had been sub par. As it is I needn't have feared- this is a record that is cohesive, strong, refreshing, and sometimes downright pretty even if I don't quite rate it as highly as `I'm Wide Awake...` and found it a little less immediate.

It starts, as seems to be the wont of a Bright Eyes album, with a weird sonic soundscape. In this case the voice of a woman pontificating on the benefits of the eponymous spiritual retreat of the title. This would almost be quirky if we hadn't had it on just about every Bright Eyes release from `Lifted...' onward and actually detracts slightly from the rather lovely Clairaudients. Oberst seems to have at least partially listened to his critics as the song sets the tone for a lovely understated vocal style that suffuses many tracks on the album, less histrionic than we've been used to. Personally I liked the histrionics but I can't fault the vocals here.

The single `Four Winds' follows, all political polemic and attention-grabbing violin. Possibly the closest to a pure pop song Bright Eyes have done it is a fine slice of country stomp. It is followed up by another remarkably radio friendly sounding track `If the Brakeman Turns My Way'. This track establishes one of the tricks that underpin so many of the songs on this album. A four-part female backing harmony from Rachel Yamagata, Z Berg, and Sherri and Stacey DuPree lifts the song to an extraordinary height. They return on the following track `Hot Knives' where they elevate it with their vocals from a good song to a great one. It sounds like Oberst paid attention to his friend Jenny Lewis when he guested on her solo album as she used the Watson Twins to very similar effect.

The hits just keep coming after that. `Make A Plan to Love Me' sounds terrifyingly MOR at the intro but develops into another high point (again with the four women), `Soul Singer in A Session Band' evokes the older Bright Eyes sound to some (successful) extent, and `Middleman' is astonishingly folky- from the intro onward, especially with the again excellent violin, it reminds me a bit of Seth Lakeman. The Berg, Yamagata, DuPree vocal backing gets a rest on `Classic Cars' where country singer Gillian Welch backs up Oberst on vocals. Seemingly treading similar lyrical ground to `Take It Easy (Love Nothing' from Digital Ash... the song sounds like the same protagonist but older and less petulant. Welch and Oberst's voices work well together.

After this the album runs out of steam to some extent. `Cleanse Song' is a decent filler- sounds a bit like Digital Ash's `Theme For Piñata' but not up to the standard set by the rest of the tracks. It is followed up by the haunting, beautiful, ethereal `No One Would Riot For Less'. In a perfect world this song, one of my favourite Bright Eyes tracks, featuring the four women again would have closed the album. Instead it is followed up by `Coat Check Dream Song', a poor b-side at best, and `I Must Belong Somewhere' which is by no means bad but nor is it as good as most of the rest of the CD. The actual finale comes with `Lime Tree', a pretty, slow, and quiet track that makes a fine closer and- with its sudden end- makes you want to put the album on again. I still would have preferred `No Would Would Riot...' to close the whole thing off but we can't have everything.

This is Bright Eyes most accessible work to date with gleaming pop hooks, toned down diatribe, and genuine heart. It manages this without coming across as a stinking sell out because it just sounds like a cleverer version of what came before, not a less intense version. To be truly perfect it could have done with being a couple of tracks shorter as removing `Cleanse Song' and `Coat Check Dream Song' would have made Cassadaga sound more elegant and made it a better album. That being said this is easily one of the finest albums of the year so far and threatens great things for this band.
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Cassadaga by Bright Eyes (Audio CD - 2007)
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