If unique brands of honest, acoustic folk rock are what you’re into, then Conor Oberst is a name you are likely familiar with. For those not yet in the know, the American singer-songwriter is perhaps best known for his part in the iconic Indie band Bright Eyes, but is no stranger to working on his own – releasing Upside Down Mountain as the newest solo record over his 2-decade long career.
Oberst’s vocal style and composition is incomparable and wonderfully distinct – blending elements of Indie, Folk, Rock and Alternative music together with intelligent and poetic lyrics to deliver songs that captivate the listener and win the hearts of fans all over the world. Oberst is also known for pouring his emotions and soul into his music, which makes it honest and relatable to fans, providing comfort and support to listeners dealing with similar issues.
Upside Down Mountain is a beautiful and engaging listen from beginning to end as Oberst sings through the tracks, accompanied by mostly simple yet effective instrumental backdrops which allow his distinctive vocals to be the centrepiece. The record is mostly acoustic-based but incorporates heavier electric elements at times (see Zigzagging Toward The Light for killer electric guitar riffs) to add depth and complement Oberst’s vocals.
The album opens with Time Forgot, which sets the tone for the rest of the album with its folk-rock nature, easily recognisable vocals and story-telling lyrics (“Polished my shoes/I bought a brand new hat/Moved to a town that time forgot/Where I don’t have to shave/Or be approachable/I can do just what I want”).
Towards the middle lies Enola Gay, which is one of the more catchy and upbeat tracks on the record and a stand out as one of the album’s best. Another stand out is Night At Lake Unknown which is strong evidence that Oberst is at his best when he’s back to basics with a subdued instrumental background allowing his emotion-filled vocals to shine through.
Upside Down Mountain exemplifies a more mature sounding Oberst, who first made a name for himself as an angsty teenager with an acoustic guitar. His voice is more refined and controlled without losing the rawness that makes it so distinct, and the lyrics behind the voice are meaningful and insightful. The record is emotion-filled and well-constructed as Oberst has honed his skills to create a more digestible sound which will reach and resonate with a lot of listeners. It is the perfect album for new fans to get a taste of his music, and for old fans to catch up with the 34 year old whose music feels familiar and comforting, like listening to an old friend.