The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Photo Courtesy / YouTube Jojo Siwa
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Catherine Pascal, Staff Writer • May 3, 2024
Torch Photo / Anya Geiling
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Anya Geiling, Contributing Writer • April 30, 2024

Eyes Wide Open

There are so many different
words critics and fans use to
describe Conor Oberst:
emotional, sensitive, clever
and genius are typical
(along with “gorgeous,” a title many of
his new female fans have given him,
despite his new “I haven’t bathed in ten
days” appearance). But that’s what
Oberst and his band, Bright Eyes, seem
to be about: change. It keeps the band
fresh, allures new fans and leaves its listeners
craving more.

For the past 15 years, Oberst has
been experimenting with different
bands and different sounds. With Bright
Eyes, a band that basically consists of
Oberst and an ever-changing ensemble
of musicians, the boy genius has proven
that he can dabble in any sub-genre of
indie rock and still woo the critics.
Whether it was the rootsy I’m Wide
Awake, It’s Morning, or the album’s
electronic counterpart, Digital Ash in a
Digital Urn, Oberst has found success
with whatever he does. On the band’s
latest release, Cassadaga, Oberst takes
the sound from one of his older records,
Fevers and Mirrors, and adds quite the
creative twist to it.

Named after a community in
Florida that is home to psychics, mediums
and fortune tellers, Cassadaga
opens appropriately with a psychic
telling Oberst that “Cassadaga might
just be a premonition of a place you’re
going to visit.”

Just as he seems unsure on all of
his previous records, this record shows
Oberst as even more unsure and vulnerable
than ever. He says that he sees
himself in a place where “everything
must belong somewhere” and “death
may come invisible.”

With lyrics like these, it is easy to
see why many (namely those who are
not familiar with the band) slap the
“emo” label on Oberst. The insecure,
vulnerable, boyish musician’s voice is
so shaky that when he sings, it sounds
as if he is sitting outside in sopping wet
clothes in the dead of winter. However,
delving deeper into the album and taking
a closer look at what Cassadaga is
really about shows that Oberst is simply
questioning, well… everything.

The album is also somewhat spiritual
in the sense that, along with
addressing death, Oberst also addresses
the existence of God, talking about
a place where God is both an all-powerful
“Brakeman” and a myth. Early in
the album, Oberst speaks of “going to
Cassadaga to commune with the
dead.” However, the record takes a
different path; love, loneliness and just
wanting to belong somewhere are
recurring themes.

The beautiful thing is that Oberst,
unlike a lot of bands today, does not
sound like a grown man with the heart of
a whiny, teenage boy. Oberst has always
been about the words; his lyrics are
deep, dark, and beautiful.

Cassadaga is by far the most
developed album by Bright Eyes, and
while many hardcore indie-rock fans
have accused Oberst of becoming a
sellout due to his contacts with major
labels, who can really blame the guy
for wanting to make the best music
he can?

Whether his home is Nebraskabased
Saddle Creek Records or a major
label in Los Angeles or New York,
Oberst will always have something to
say. The only real difference is that his
message will come across to many more people.

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