Lifted or The Story is in the Soil....
This third album includes a rotating line-up of musicians on each track, anchored by Oberst's quaking, yet impregnable voice as well as his bittersweet lyrics and inspiring poetry. His impassioned, fervent delivery makes every song-headed by his poignant, strumming guitar and a conceptual orchestra in the background-convey a profound sense of meaning and leaves you, after each hear, with a soothing, cathartic feeling. His folksy guitar plucking and the high/low quiver of his vibrato, plus his tremulous accounts of teenage angst, have progressed reasonably since Commander Venus, yet what's most impressive here are the authentic musical arrangements he has devised for this album. He gathers, for instance, an assortment of strings, slide guitars and a drunken choir to compose "Laura Laurent," his words bleeding through the cracked holes of the tune, though the effects shaped by the orchestration are slightly stifled in order to not drain out Oberst's piloting position.
On "Lover I Don't Have to Love," a ballad with an ethereal piano melody, he sings for an unconventional appraisal of sympathy: "Life's no story book/Love is an excuse to get hurt/And to hurt/Do you like to hurt?/I do, I do/Then hurt me." He croons as if standing on stage in a smoky, penumbral saloon on "Bowl of Oranges" and ignites our emotive sensations with tender lullabies, such as on "Nothing Gets Crossed Out," delicately sewn together with fragile bells, flutes, a soft electric guitar and Maria Taylor's embracing hymning. "Don't Know When But a Day Is Gonna Come" burns slowly down your throat like taking a shot of Jack Daniels, the remote guitar strums whispering in the distance until drums, bass and a string section hit you hard and build up that tingly feel of pre-drunkenness.
Undoubtedly, Oberst's chilling effort to mend together broken hearts, lost souls and lonely spirits with provocative, melodramatic tunes inside skillful arrangements is quite moving, but he wouldn't care about what I'm writing anyway because, as he clearly says in the last track, "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and Be Loved)": "I do not read the reviews/ No, I am not singing for you."
3 1/2 out of 4 stars.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3