With his new album, Lifted, 22-year-old Omaha native and Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst gathers over two dozen musicians on at least as many different instruments, derives a sonic concept from Dark Side Of The Moon (car stereo as vehicle for emotional journey), and turns the abstract mess into an elegant series of variations on faith, hope and companionship.
The closest aesthetic contemporary to Lifted is Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but where Jeff Tweedy seeks to recover his dreams in grand minimalism and found noises, Oberst wants to hold on to his dreams with a ramshackle orchestra that approaches and retreats according to his mood. Tweedy’s vocal croak also speaks of age and experience, where Oberst’s wavering vocal — delicately indelible, reminiscent of the Cure’s Robert Smith — conveys naive romanticism.
In a torrent of words and music, Oberst tries to communicate everything he knows, or needs to understand. From the straight honky-tonk weeping of “Make War” to the embittered indie-rock lullaby of “Lover I Don’t Have To Love”, misplaced beats and wrong notes are merely cracks through which the beauty of the songs can shine. But Oberst’s will to believe glows almost perfectly on the folksy whirligig of the final, self-explanatory track: “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love And To Be Loved)”.