Shortcuts—Bright Eyes’s Cassadaga

By Oliver Mosier

Cassadaga, the latest album from Bright Eyes, was released on April 10. At times the album is an ambitious country folk–tinged extension of 2005’s I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning. However, such a classification appears premature upon listening to songs like “Make a Plan to Love Me.” The folkie side of Conor Oberst is given a flowery orchestral background.

At 27, Oberst is making his claim for the voice of a new generation through politically conscious music. With asinine lyrics like: “For the freedom-fighting simulcast (Victory! A defeat! Victory!)…. Like the polar icecaps centrifuge (Oh Allah! Oh Jesus please!),” that probably won’t be the album’s result. On the song with those lyrics, entitled “Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed),” Oberst often struggles with articulating his political feelings.

Despite this, the lyrical strengths of Oberst are still very much on display on Cassadaga. “Soul Singer in a Session Band” and “I Must Belong Somewhere” give the Bright Eyes fan something to appreciate and enjoy. “Classic Cars” is a throwback to classic songs and themes.

The opening lines of the song are perfectly descriptive. Oberst sings, “She was a real royal lady, a true patron of the arts./ She said the best country singers die in the back of classic cars.” The depth of the song lies in its simplicity. He does not do too much. When the songs go off track, the opposite is usually true.

Cassadaga displays certain good signs for the future. There are still aspects of the songwriting that lack necessary maturity. Bright Eyes has proven to not rely on past accomplishments. The prolific writing of Oberst demonstrates that, when perfection is the goal, satisfaction does not come easy. Nevertheless, the future is bright. The 21st-century musical echo to “Masters of War” is somewhere in the subconscious of Oberst; he just hasn’t found it yet. Keep looking, Conor.