Bright Eyes
Cassadaga


4.0
excellent

Review

by FlawedPerfection EMERITUS
April 8th, 2007 | 85 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Cassadaga pairs Conor Oberst's country obsessions with an orchestra as he spins more personal stories and puts politics in the backseat.

Releasing two drastically different albums and giving each album their own individual tour proved a bad idea for Conor Oberst back in 2005. Through his extensive touring, Conor dabbled in drugs, cursed out DJ John Peel while high on mushrooms, and the tabloids exposed him and Winona Ryder. He got sick of everything and needed a break. Well, where else to go than Cassadaga, Florida" Cassadaga is just the place for Conor, full of profound ideas and a quirky community. When I say quirky community, I mean a community of psychics. A secluded place of only 100 adult members, Cassadaga gave Conor time to figure out where he wanted to go with the rest of his life, feeling aged and decrepit at the humongous age of 27. Thanks to Conor, Cassadaga’s population is sure to grow, as this album, like many of his albums, is a scrapbook of his experiences and thoughts during his sojourn to Cassadaga. The extensive touring, however, gave Conor experience and allowed him to train his voice simply through repetition and constant singing. Touring the world and seeing all kinds of different music gave him new inspiration for new sounds, pushing further into country-infused rock. Cassadaga sees the entrance of an orchestra. If any Bright Eyes album shows Conor’s potential, Cassadaga is that album.

As most Bright Eyes albums, Cassadaga begins strangely with Clairaudients (To Kill or Not Be Killed). The orchestra makes its largest appearance with atonal ambience with what sounds like a voice played through an answer machine. The orchestra drowns out the voice at some points, making the words indistinguishable, but the woman is obviously a psychic. After over 2 minutes of this strange, off setting chaos, a serene, calm, and simple guitar melody comes with Conor’s trademark wavering voice, now mastered. Like Smoke Without Fire on the Four Winds EP, Oberst uses the M. Ward empty production style. Slowly, the orchestra adds itself back in and the song becomes a mix of the chaos and the calm. Clairaudients sets the tone for Cassadaga; a deeply personal and introspective album where politics take a backseat to Conor’s personal anecdotes and discoveries, but that is not to see Conor completely disregarded the rest of the world. He fills No One Would Riot for Less, a quiet song laced with more orchestra and woman backup vocals, with political lines like “From madness of the governments/To the vengeance of the seas/Everything is eclipsed/By the shape of destiny” and “you know war, it has no heart/It will kill you in the sunshine/Or just as happily in the dark.”

Conor’s best lyrical work comes on Soul Singer in a Session Band, an introspective, pessimistic look at his current condition. Lines like “I was a hopeless romantic, now I’m just turning tricks” and “I grew old in an instant, now I’m all on my own” blatantly describe his depression and why he needed to spend time in Cassadaga. However, most of the lyrics are more abstract, using the metaphor of a soul singer in a session band to show how he no longer feels anything and needs to rediscover himself. Musically, Soul Singer in a Session Band is accessible and simple. The drummer holds the backbeat to the point where the song almost drags, but that adds to the feel of the song and keeps it from rushing and getting too energetic. The sound perfectly exemplifies Conor’s country-rock style, full of activity yet simplistic and easy-going.

Cassadaga finally brings a Bright Eyes album where the music is just as good as the lyrics. Songs like Hot Knives, which switches from modern gritty rock to simple piano music to acoustic work on the fly, grab the listener’s attention entirely and completely distract him/her from the lyrics, which is good because they are somewhat vague and cliché (“on a dance floor no one tells time”") Middleman mixes acoustic guitar with folk violin and ethnic percussion. One of the more uptempo songs on the album, it revitalizes the album after a long string of slower songs. Lime Tree ends the album calmly, a good way for the album to end because of its sleepy feel. Acoustic guitar and Conor lead the song along, but more women’s choir and orchestral flourish add nuances into the song. Each song on Cassadaga is at least listenable and its own song. Many of the songs, however, are purely listenable and do not hold to the standard of Cassadaga’s better tracks. Make a Plan to Love Me, Classic Cars, and Coat Check Dream Song are all slow and placed at bad times on the album. Classic Cars continues a three-song strain of ballads. By itself, it has a great lyrical concept, but it is too simple and repetitive musically.

I had a premonition myself when I first looked at Cassadaga. I thought it was going to be terrible, with nearly half of the album’s song lengths falling between 4:10 and 4:20. The title Make a Plan to Love Me sounded terribly generic. Cassadaga ended up pleasantly surprising me; it is easily near the top of all of Conor Oberst’s releases. Fantastic lyrical concepts, an improved musicianship and the addition of an orchestra make Cassadaga easily the most enjoyable Bright Eyes album as a whole. Conor and Company could have improved it by having more energy and making better use of the orchestra, but Cassadaga will have the indie world buzzing and possibly the mainstream.

Recommended Tracks:
Four Winds
Hot Knives
Soul Singer in a Session Band
Middleman
Lime Tree



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user ratings (511)
Chart.
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
Iai EMERITUS (4)
Shock alert! Conor Oberst has crafted a stunning country-rock album that may well convert even long...

aboynameddirt (3.5)
While it may not be for the casual listener, Cassadega's orchestral country background makes it a lo...

Cheesewireism (4.5)
Cassadaga takes a step back, back from the chaos of modern society hypo criticism, and shows the aud...

nowhereman1991 (4.5)
Lush and tuneful country-pop that retains super-songwriter Conor Oberst's fragile lyrical voice....


Comments:Add a Comment 
ToWhatEnd
April 8th 2007


3172 Comments


Nice review. Never really checked Bright Eyes out, heard a few and was impressed with some material but never really looked into much detail on it. Four Winds is a cool song so I might look into this.

trustxdialect
April 8th 2007


1502 Comments


What I've heard from this is excellent. I've never been much of a Bright Eyes fan (aside from the fact that I all of his albums...), but I might really, really like this. Great review and such (best in a while, actually).

Two-Headed Boy
April 8th 2007


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'm sick of Bright Eyes. Frankly, they're okay, but very very over-rated.

MrKite
April 8th 2007


5020 Comments


You= really good reviewer.
Bright Eyes are pretty sweet. I really need to get more by them. I'll probably buy this just to have something from this year.

HotSalvation
April 8th 2007


258 Comments


am I the only one who thinks conor looks alot like frodo

Phil
April 9th 2007


1473 Comments


I thought Martin from questionable-content was based upon Conor.

descendents1
April 9th 2007


702 Comments


questionable content is awesome

but i'd bet that martin is not based off of Conor

Irish Nostalgic
April 9th 2007


9 Comments


QC is a terrible comic. It's just Jeph Jacques' solipsistic little doodles in which he can insert his indie cred at every possible opportunity while never actually putting any effort into writing or character development. Every character is exactly the same, and the only difference from female and male characters in both aesthetics and personality is the boobs.

I have to hand it to him for the art though. He has sure ironed out those three backgrounds and two facial expressions over the years.

Also, Cassadaga is pretty ok.

Kyle
April 9th 2007


667 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Agreed on the rating, this is a fine album.



Also SOP, If you want to hear a carbon copy Bright Eyes impersonation you should check out this local guy from where I live called Gethin Pearson



http://www.myspace.com/gethinpearsonandthescenery



It's really dificult not to compare him to Oberst, but he's still got some good songs.

The Jungler
April 9th 2007


4826 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm really looking forward to this album, especially if it is as good as you say. Bright Eyes has been one of my favorite artists for a while now. I've liked pretty much everything I've heard from him, album wise (Fevers and Mirrors reigns supreme though), so I doubt I'll dislike this.

Great job on the review, really solid.

lunchforthesky
April 9th 2007


1039 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I am really not sold on this yet. A few tracks such as Four Winds and Soul Singer are excellent but the rest seem somewhat uninspired and it is nowhere near up to Fevers & Mirrors standards.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
April 9th 2007


4939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I am liking this album a lot more as a whole compared to other CDs that he has released...



Make A Plan to Love Me is probably up there as one of my favorites.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
April 9th 2007


4939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh and the artwork and the stuff I got with this album are INCREDIBLE. It's worth buying if you are a fan of interesting packaging. It also came with one of two bags (one good for putting CDs in, one good for a girlfriend, I was lucky enough to get both) and I couldn't be more impressed especially since it was a hair over 10$.

trustxdialect
April 9th 2007


1502 Comments


How is it already out for you, Luck?

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
April 9th 2007


4939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

My record store is generous to their loyal fanbase and put it on the shelves when they get it in, usually. I feel as long as I am buying it, it's not cheating out the artist, regardless of the date.This Message Edited On 04.09.07

trustxdialect
April 9th 2007


1502 Comments


Technically it's not. It just makes everyone else envious. :angry:

Do they all come with the packaging/limited number, etc.?

iamrockzorz
April 10th 2007


1029 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

THE decoder thing is awesome

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
April 10th 2007


4939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

YEAH IT IS.

iamrockzorz
April 10th 2007


1029 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

when i first saw the cd without the sticker on it i thought it looked really bland. then i opened it and saw that decoder and i like wanted to jump with joy. that thing will keep me busy for days

Hottness
April 11th 2007


49 Comments


I like bright eyes and his extremely talented lyricsism. His overly honest attitude and his being himself alway's this shows that but it does have a little too muckcountry twang for me. Great review though



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