Take away the Bob Dylan comparisons and the emo perceptions, and you're left with an artist with his own voice and own sound that's exceptionally unique on its own. With "Cassadaga," Bright Eyes has fully utilized their offerings of a bigger production. Many of the tracks are full of string arrangements and female harmonies — a sound not usually found on a Bright Eyes album.
Even though "Cassadaga" had a larger budget to work with, it doesn't necessarily hurt his music; if anything else it magnifies the quality.
"Hot Knives" is the third song on "Cassadaga," which begins with a quick strum of the guitar as Oberst cuts in and sings of a woman and her journey to cleanse her suffering. Oberst sounds angry on "Hot Knives" and he delivers his vocals straight from his soul. His vocals are gradually layered with more guitars, pianos and female harmonies that help comfort his angst. There is no easy meaning to make of this song, only a feeling of sadness is felt as Oberst tells a story with such intimacy that it makes any listener sympathize.
Fans have watched Bright Eyes make their transformation from independent rock ("Fevers and Mirrors"), to electronic ("Digital Ash in a Digital Urn"), and now to country and folk with the release of "Cassadaga." The number of artists that have contributed its talent is as big as the production of the album alone. Andy Lemaster (Now Its Overhead), Ben Kweller, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Janet Weiss (ex-Slater Kinney), Jason Boesel (Rilo Kiley) and so many more have fitted their unique sounds to "Cassadaga."
On "No One Would Riot For Less," a lone guitar opens the song. Oberst sings as if he's alone in a room with just his guitar at hand, strumming away. An echo of a chorus begins delicately as more instruments are gradually brought into play. Singer/songwriter is defined on this track as Oberst sings at his most vulnerability. "So love me now/ Hell is coming/ Could you do it now? / Hell is here," Oberst sings. "No One Would Riot For Less" is the most tragic yet beautiful song on "Cassadaga."
"Make a Plan to Love Me" is a song that everyone can relate to. It's the type of song that gives any listener a feeling of comfort. "When you are young the world is a ferris wheel/ I know we will grow old it is lovely, still/ Make a plan to love me sometime soon," Oberst sings.
The female chorus is really apparent on this track as they sing the "Make a plan to love me" line. It's an assuring song that places its listeners in a peaceful state of mind.
"Cassadaga" is filled with a lot of tracks, but not all of them are immediate stand-out favorites. "Coat Check Dream Song" just drags the albums momentum down and ends up a little strange; a random Indian chorus comes out of nowhere towards the end. "Classic Cars" seems to be a stereotypical country song with a mediocre message. "She said the best country singers die in the back of classic cars/ So if I ever got too hungry for a suitcase or guitar/ To think of them all alone in the dark."
"Cassadaga" is truly a turning point for Oberst, an artist who always has something to say. This album does come off as a little country sounding, but it quickly breaks that postulation as it progresses. This band is all about variety and variety is what the listener will get with each release Bright Eyes puts out. Give this album a listen and you're guaranteed to walk away with a favorite song. "Cassadaga" is out now on Saddle Creek Records.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3
LP / CD / MP3