Conor Oberst’s face in the above picture — taken at his 2014 Sokol Auditorium show — is perfect for this feature.
Now, I wouldn’t call Oberst an angry songwriter, the same way I wouldn’t call him a sad songwriter. That’s a fool’s way of addressing the measured complexity (and also the intellectual fun being had) in his recent work. But he certainly has a propensity for in-song tongue lashings. On the bases of religion, politics, hypocrisy and general myopia he’s devoted horizons of lyrical real estate to cutting “you” down to size. As we discuss in the de facto podcast below, that “you” could be a person, a government, a way of thinking, etc.
What’s most important: As a technique it’s given Oberst an unshakable feeling of lyrical command. Like he’s winning a sudden argument set to rock music.
Jacob Zlomke and I give our favorite examples in this feature. It was recorded live on our radio show this past Monday. If you want to skip to the songs, they’re in the SoundCloud comments. Bonus commentary at the end about Oberst’s recent interview with Marc Maron.
If you like this, by the way, our first attempt at an on-air feature was an appreciation of Jim Schroeder’s guitar work. Check it out here.