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Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Outer South Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 6
Musicianship 7
Lyrics 5.5
Production 7
Creativity 7.25
Lasting Value 6.5
Reviewer Tilt 6.75
Final Verdict: 66%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8.09
Musicianship 8.25
Lyrics 7.56
Production 8.19
Creativity 7.5
Lasting Value 7.72
Reviewer Tilt 8.44
Average: 80%

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Outer South

Reviewed by: Travis Parno (05/09/09)
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley BandOuter South
Record Label: Merge
Release Date: May 5, 2009

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” –Walt Whitman

The above quote is tucked inside the dust jacket of Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band’s latest LP, Outer South. It’s superimposed over a few pictures of the band wearing matching band logo jackets, hanging out, and generally looking cool. Now I didn’t know the man personally, but I’m pretty sure what Whitman didn’t mean was “I have learned that to get high and write a shitty record with those I like is enough.” Of course, that didn’t bother Oberst, whose 16 year musical career has defined prolific. Somewhere during the move out of Omaha basements to the helm of one of the Midwest’s most influential labels, it appears that Oberst has grown a bit bored.

Roughly nine months ago, the conscience of indie darlings Bright Eyes released a self-titled gem. It was tight, well-crafted, and utterly impressive. It was also the polar opposite of Outer South. Featuring dismal guest vocals and stumbling, half-baked lyrics, the latter album can’t seem to find its pace or identity despite tripping through sixteen tracks. Most of the tunes range from tolerable but forgettable (“To All the Lights in the Windows,” “Ten Women”) to sheer disappointments (“Bloodline,” “Cabbage Town”), with a few high and low notes in between. For instance, “Air Mattress” is an utter abomination. It’s unfortunately exactly what it sounds like: a song about sleeping on an inflatable bed (“I want to sleep on the air mattress with you/ And let the air leak out the whole night through/ And as we sleep, our bodies can slowly meet/ I like to feel it when your heart beats, I do”). Taylor Hollingsworth lends, or rather slathers, his insipid vocals all over the track in a perfectly obnoxious fashion. Somewhere Elvis Costello threw up in his mouth a little. “Eagle on a Pole,” a song which shares its name with a far more interesting track from Oberst’s self-titled album, is equally terrible. This time the vocals are slowly bludgeoned by Jason Boesel, whose drunken caterwauling is reminiscent of a karaoke rendition of David Bazan’s greatest hits. Boesel offends throughout the album, also pausing to butcher “Difference is Time.”

As an unequivocal Conor Oberst Fanboy, I feel supremely qualified, indeed overqualified, to point out that Oberst doesn’t have it in him to release an album full to the brim with waste. “I Got a Reason #2” and “Nikorette” come pretty close to fitting the mold of neo-Oberst country, the likes of which were seen on Bright Eyes’ Cassadaga and Oberst’s solo effort. “White Shoes” is sufficiently sparse to chill and “Snake Hill” proves that the guest vocal experiment wasn’t a total bust (Hollingsworth manages to redeem himself here). The crunching sizzle of “Roosevelt Room” is, at first glance, a thrilling distraction until the lyrics sink in. Rather than complex and biting wit, we’re given aimless anger that seems to be alternatively directed at the National Park Service and some evil, disembodied notion of Government. The target-less acidity is exhausting, rather than effective.

In fact, as but one in the long line of Oberst devotees, a full listen of this album is simply tiresome. It seems that the haters finally have some true grist in which to sink their teeth, throttle, and present as a trophy on the scene’s front porch. I’d love to say that with some pruning, this album could stand up with previous Oberst releases, but unless it was trimmed from 16 tracks to 4 or 5, it just wasn’t going to happen. I’m not asking for more Bright Eyes material or really even another Conor Oberst; all I’m asking for is something that sounds complete and thoughtful. Sure, it’s great that he loves to hang out with his friends and write a little music, but if the next effort is going to resemble Outer South in the slightest, I for one hope Oberst just keeps it to himself.

Track List1. 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*

*- recommended tracks

Give it a try if you like…Conor Oberst; Elvis Costello; Bob Dylan; Bright Eyes

Hear it on the internetzOfficial Myspace | Official Website
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 77
04:17 PM on 05/09/09
#2
DonnerParty666
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yeah, definately a bit of a letdown
04:32 PM on 05/09/09
#3
CellarGhosts
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Yeah, I agree. Really disappointing. I wasn't big on his solo album either though.
04:57 PM on 05/09/09
#4
sleeplessdance
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i liked the last solo effort more, but this definitely grew on me after a couple of listens. there really are some great songs on this album even though its not as strong.
05:03 PM on 05/09/09
#5
eleven eleven
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I think it is really quite good. Don't see any negative points about it really. I like all of the other member's songs, and Conor's songs are not even a bit of a letdown. I like the direction he went in with the band, although I do hope his next Bright Eyes release is more like his usual material.

I'd have given it an 84%.
05:05 PM on 05/09/09
#6
eleven eleven
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Also, I think Roosevelt Room is awesome, lyrics and all.
05:12 PM on 05/09/09
#7
lesto17
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This review is pretty awful.
05:15 PM on 05/09/09
#8
lesto17
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I think it is really quite good. Don't see any negative points about it really. I like all of the other member's songs, and Conor's songs are not even a bit of a letdown. I like the direction he went in with the band, although I do hope his next Bright Eyes release is more like his usual material.

I'd have given it an 84%.
This is pretty much my take on it.

Conor's self-titled release was definitely more focused and poignant, but this is still a pretty solid and quite enjoyable record.
05:23 PM on 05/09/09
#9
eleven eleven
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By the way, does anyone know when he'll be coming out with a new Bright Eyes album?
05:26 PM on 05/09/09
sleeplessdance
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I think it is really quite good. Don't see any negative points about it really. I like all of the other member's songs, and Conor's songs are not even a bit of a letdown. I like the direction he went in with the band, although I do hope his next Bright Eyes release is more like his usual material.

I'd have given it an 84%.
agreed. "bloodline" is my favorite track on the album.
06:17 PM on 05/09/09
Broden Terry
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I still haven't heard this but I'm really looking forward to it. Sounds like it has a few negative issues though which is a bit shame.
06:31 PM on 05/09/09
Uwe Blab
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I like it.
08:09 PM on 05/09/09
Keagan Ilvonen
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I didn't really dig this album.
10:04 PM on 05/09/09
hockeyguitar99
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I enjoyed his solo album last year, but I was disappointed with this.
10:48 PM on 05/09/09
sargentlgfuad
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i don't understand the hate for this album, but i can understand being a little disappointed.
i wasn't expecting it to be up to Bright Eyes' stuff, i just expected it to be a nice album that i'd enjoy listening to on repeat, and so far i do enjoy it.
i actually enjoyed the new Eagle on a Pole, and i thought "Spoiled" was great. actually some of the middle, from Nikorette to Spoiled i think is so great.
i can't fully say i dislike any song. maybe it's just my personal infatuation with Conor and anything he does is golden?
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