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Splendid 6th from Oberst & Co.,
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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.