Recorded and mixed by longtime collaborator Mike Mogis, with Nate Walcott and M. Ward playing several of the myriad instruments, Cassadaga is the first album Oberst has recorded outside his tiny Nebraska studio, and, sonically, it has the adventurousness of a kid playing with new toys. There's violin, cellos, banjo, horns and a hefty dose of lap steel. The first track, "Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)," begins with a whir of found audio, and a distorted orchestra crescendos into what is almost a THX moment, which is fitting; the album itself is cinematic, like a cross-country trip with a camera perched out the window, catching the world outside as it blurs past—from California on through the Midwest and into the cacophony of Times Square.
Cassadaga appears to have no real theme except its wandering nature—it's a mishmash of musical genres as much as locales. The second track, "Four Winds," is a slick Nashville toe-tapper that could charm any dance hall. (Though leave it to Oberst to have people two-stepping to the phrase "Satan's gone / The whore of Babylon.") But not all of the sonic experiments work: "Coat Check Dream Song," with its snatches of Indian chants and vampire double vocals, feels like an unfinished doodle—out of place on such a polished album. But a song like "Make a Plan to Love Me" sounds like a girl-group classic piped in from some spectral radio signal circa 1955. "Whenever I hear beautiful music, it's always from another time," Oberst sings, and Cassadaga seems like his own musical DeLorean—a collection of sounds, moods and shadowy stories that, side-by-side feel perfectly at home. As Oberst sings toward album's end, "Everything it must belong somewhere / I know that now / That's why I'm staying here."
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3