Author: Jeffrey Sisk
There's an interminable opening track of babbling voice-over and discordant noise that begins Conor Oberst's latest Bright Eyes offering, which draws its title from a spiritualist community in Florida. Sadly, it's the type of experimental let's-just¬ turn-on-the-recorder-and-see-what-happens claptrap we've come to expect at some point in a Bright Eyes record. What follows, however, are 12 universally magnificent songs that transform "Cassadaga" into the masterpiece we've been waiting for from Oberst. It's also the closest he's come to living up to the unfair label as this generation's Bob Dylan. Standout tracks like "Four Winds," "Hot Knives" and "Make a Plan to Love Me" are boosted by lush instrumentation - including a full orchestra in the latter's case - that gives Oberst his fullest sound to date. As good as those tracks are, they pale in comparison to "If the Brakeman Turns My Way" and "Soul Singer In a Session Band." Simply put, they are the two best things Oberst ever has recorded. Additional keepers are the older woman (Winona Ryder, maybe?) kiss-off "Classic Cars," the haunting "No One Would Riot for Less" and the uplifting optimism of "I Must Belong Somewhere." This is the rare perfect musical storm where melody, lyrics and vocals come together to create an unforgettable record.