Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was by Bright Eyes [9/10]

Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was” is the tenth album, and the first in nine years, of Bright Eyes, the flagship band of genius songwriter Conor Oberst. Anything Oberst puts out is wondrous but Bright Eyes teams him up with a solid group of musicians and songwriters, and Oberst’s Bright Eyes presents him at his most expansive and ornate. Take the stripped-down tremulous outpourings of a bard and add Queen-spirit adventurousness of arrangements and weirdness … well, it’s a triumph. Oberst’s vision and yearnings have not abated a whit, and every one of this capacious album’s fourteen tracks sparkles with inventiveness, talent, and invention. Lyrically, as ever, Oberst marries personal concerns, in this case a break-up and a family death, to the vast and apocalyptical. Every song, even those that flirt with harshness or weirdness, contains a kernel of indie melody. I find it hard to pluck out highlights from this cohesive album, in the old vernacular, but the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when, during the swoony “One and Done,” which seems to be about wedding memories, Oberst keens: “Around here we’ve been wondering what tomorrow’s going to sing / On the final field recording from the loud Anthropocene.” Folks, if you wish to see non-mainstream music, sadly still much overlooked, at its most profound, snap up Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was.

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