Published May 16, 2014On Conor Oberst's early material as Bright Eyes, he seemed to be teetering on the brink of oblivion, his tortured tales of depression, drinking and drugs delivered via quivering whimpers and anguished howls. But judging by his latest solo album, Upside Down Mountain, he seems have quieted his demons. This country-flecked batch of songs is emotionally even-keeled, so even when he addresses death and solitude — which he still does frequently — it's with a quiet sense of resignation.
Oberst remains capable of evocative poetry, something that's particularly apparent in the buoyant, Graceland-borrowing "Hundreds of Ways," when he sings about "This strange parade of sounds the city makes when I lie down/ Little explosions that set fire to my dreams." His songs no longer have the raw-nerve urgency they once did, which makes Upside Down Mountain a pleasantly peaceful listen, but lacking the power and urgency of his best work. (Nonesuch)