Review Summary: Conor and Pheobe make one hell of a pair.
Conor has gone through a lot these past 6 or 7 years. His brother died, he was dragged to court and accused falsely of rape, and he's been on a creative decline for the better part of the last decade or so. That's not to say that he hasn't put out good material around that time, but Cassadaga and The People's Key were thoroughly disappointing. His solo material was either serviceable or downright forgettable. Conor had lost his spark to the dismay of many.
Then Ruminations happened Conor's best solo output to date. Conor was soulful again, pouring his heart out on nearly every song. Completely giving into his craft again. Then he did a full band effort of the album the following year that was kind of forgettable but a nice treat nonetheless.
So, knowing this Better Oblivion Community Center could be either a blessing or a curse upon Conor's recent return to form. Starting out Conor has a friend along for the ride this time, well respected indie folk artist, Phoebe Bridgers. Recently known for the supergroup Boygenius which was also very good IMO. Then again I'm a sucker for anything Julien Baker is in. That's really all I know Phoebe from. She's got a beautiful voice that compliments Conor's very well. Both of their lyricism and musical stylings intertwine flawlessly to create one of the best indie albums of Conor's recent output.
Now, surprisingly, this sounds a hell of a lot more like Bright Eyes than a regular Conor Oberst project or solo album. The glitchy effects on "Exception to the Rule" call to mind Digital Ash in a Digital Urn which is definitely odd considering Conor never really messed with anything like that since. From the very first song "Didn't Know What I Was In For" it's very clear that this album wants more rockability than folk centered sad songs. Do NOT get me wrong there is still some of that but not nearly as much as on either Conor or Pheobe's usually outputs.
There is unsteady darkness that creeps through and invades Better Oblivion Community Center. Whether that be Conor directly addressing his brother's death or the unsteady shaky sounds that prevail throughout the runtime of the album. The entire band sounds like it's on the edge of an emotional collapse. Conor wails away with Phoebe with a booming distorted bass on "Big Black Heart" being a good example of how unsettling the album can get.
The lyrics are very Conor esque for the most part, while Phoebe obviously writes too Conor's language and lyrical themes of loss are scattered throughout. As dark, depressing, and hopeless as Better Oblivion Community Center gets. There's a light at the end of the tunnel with "Dominos" which sounds like Conor and Pheobe directly facing what's been following them. Standing up to tall to the darkness that was sure to destroy them. Instead of running any further away from it. They turn around hand in hand and stand their ground.
They are Better Oblivion Community Center and they've got something to say. Do you wanna hear it" If you do I promise you....you don't know what you're in for....