vrijdag 5 september 2014

Upside down mountain. Conor Oberst

Is there another artist that rubs me the wrong as well as the right way as often as Conor Oberst? The answer is no. The one album is tossed out of the window; happy sailing, cd. The other cherished and kept closed. Upside down mountain is one of the latter category. It's impossible to explain why this is. It's what it is, to quote Allan Karlsson's mother. Upside down mountain contains 13 songs that sit just right by me.

Conor Oberst's sixth solo album has a sort of optimism that is enticing, despite the sort of sad puppy voice Oberst has. The songs, that are mostly in a sort of folk, alt.americana sprayed with a pop infusion flavour, as such remind me of Bob Dylan's 'Nashville skyline'. Upside down mountain has the same sort of intimacy. Perhaps that is the main reason for me liking a Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst record, closeness vs. distance? The comparison comes closer listening to 'Lonely at the top'. 'Lay lady lay' is extremely near in the atmosphere and execution of his song. Deeply melancholy and longing, all underscored by the spaciousness of the mix and the pedal steel guitar. In voice it is in 'Night at Lake Unknown' that Dylan comes closests. This comes scarily close. Listening to the acoustic guitar in 'Night at Lake Unknown' 'I threw it all away' comes to mind straight away. And the good thing? The song's about as good as "the original".

Oberst made Upside down mountain with a host of people, but mostly with the aid of Jonathan Wilson, who's album 'Fanfare' was reviewed twice on this blog last year. Wilson is noted as co-producer. His stamp is all over this album, playing every instrument as long as there is no breathing out air into an instrument is involved and sings some background vocals as well. The ladies of First Aid Kit feature on background vocals in five songs. There are a few other people that come by in a song or four, five in the same or different roles. E.g. Andy LeMaster is present in different capacities, as is Nate Walcott, both with a Bright Eyes past as well.

Upside down mountain for the large part brings the listener into a mellow rhythmed mood, playing with emotions, undercooled, while a lot going on underneath that coolness. 'Guvenor's ball' almost comes as a bit of a shock. Electric guitar and drums kick in in a prominent way. Not so much in the tempo, although that seems so because of the provided whacks on the snare and kicks on the bass drum and electric overtones. Let's not forget the hard blowing horns towards the end of the song. 'Guvenor's ball' sticks out in a most pleasant way. The bit of pepper Upside down mountain can use. The same recipe is around for the chorus of 'Desert island questionnaire'. The voice of Corina Figueroa Escamilla is so beautiful, while the guitars of Jonathan Wilson do their work in an excellent way. There certainly is a rock-oriented part to this album, like in one of my favourite tracks, 'Zigzagging toward the light'.

Is there a down side to Coming down mountain? If we put aside Oberst's sad puppy voice, that works real well in this set of songs, there is. With too many songs I had the inclination to burst out into other songs. Some come dangerously close. But ,as the Dutch proverb says: "Better well stolen than badly conceived yourself". If that is the case, then Upside down mountain comes up trumps here.

It took Conor Oberst five years to come up with his sixth solo album. It was well worth the wait and certainly one of the better records released in the folk, singer-songwriter, alt.americana segment of music in 2014. Very much worth checking out.


You can listen to 'Guvenor's ball' by clicking on the link below.


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