THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Surprise capture of Oberst indie-folk at its rawest
Conor Oberst says he wasn’t expecting to write a new album when he visited his hometown of Omaha last winter, but a snowstorm and a burst of inspiration told him otherwise.
His solo album “Ruminations” (Nonesuch) was sparked by that writing session and was recorded in two days with Bright Eyes bandmate Mike Mogis to keep the spontaneity alive.
The result is relatively spare compared with Oberst’s work with Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos and Monsters of Folk, but the songwriting is no less considered or impressive.
The piano-and-harmonica ballad “Next of Kin,” which feels a bit like early Springsteen, tells connected tales, as he declares, “I met Lou Reed and Patti Smith — it didn’t make me feel different. I guess I lost all my innocence way too long ago.” In the Dylanesque folk of “A Little Uncanny,” he sharpens his knives on politics, summing up Ronald Reagan with “He was tan enough. He was rich enough. He was handsome like John Wayne. And there was no one at the country club who didn’t feel the same.”
It’s those kind of lines that make “Ruminations” feel immediate, but also as well-crafted as ever.