Conor Oberst – Ruminations
Ruminations is just guitar, piano, harmonica, Conor Oberst, and ten new songs. Written during a period of illness and recorded in only two days earlier this year, this is the work of an artist who after more than 20 years in the business is still chock full of bright ideas, lovely melodies, and impeccable song craft. Name checks include Christopher Hitchens, Oliver Sacks, poor Robin Williams, and Sylvia Plath. And that’s just in one verse on ‘A Little Uncanny’. Classical piano themes tumble down on ‘The Rain Follows The Plow’. And no two songs are ever performed in the same style. Guitar songs follow piano songs, and with varying measures of harmonica, or none, in both. So, with a format that would normally start to feel somewhat samey by about song three, here there’s a sense of still wanting more by the time St Dymphna has finally kicked us out on track ten. With such a stripped-down sound, a lot of emphasis is placed on the words. And there’s no one better than Conor Oberst to rise to that sort of challenge. But if any of the songs have an autobiographical aspect to them, then we should probably be a little concerned. “I don’t want to eat or get out of bed, I try to recall what the therapist said”, on ‘Gossamer Thin’. “Gun in my mouth trying to sleep, Everything ends everything has to”, on ‘Counting Sheep’. “… the modern world it’s a sight to see … It takes all my will not to turn it off”, on ‘Barbary Coast (Later)’. If this is a cry for help, then it can be heard loud and clear. Otherwise, there’s at least one political song. The line that Ronald Reagan “Got me to read those Russian authors through and through” is one of the few moments of light relief. And the paean to Mamah Borthwick and Frank Lloyd Wright is a welcome distraction, though we all know how that ended. Ruminations is a dark album. Hopefully, it was a cathartic album for Conor Oberst. We’re lucky to have it and we’re lucky to have him still around too.