Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Better Oblivion Community Center

Better Oblivion Community Center (2019)

dead oceans

If you're looking for an indie/emo record to leave you in an existential crisis for the rest of the year, then look no further than Better Oblivion Community Center. The brainchild of Desaparecidos' Conor Oberst and someone whose artistic magic lured him in, Phoebe Bridgers (one of the songbirds of the next generation or nu-millennials), it's 1000% heart and soul and quite frankly, made for sipping whiskey as the sun sets on a Sunday afternoon when you're wondering what's your purpose for the week ahead. Dramatic, sure... but very true.

Quick background: Oberst heard Bridgers' music and like me, was mesmerised. He made contact with her and this is the product of that collaboration, which while it feels right up Bridgers' alley is something I haven't heard Oberst cover since Bright Eyes. He reserves himself, all his vulnerability and angst for this record (lyrically and vocally) in a way he just doesn't get to express while politipunking with Desaparecidos. And it's amazing to see the fruit of their labours in what's mostly slow burns, sprinkled with a Midwest flavour and then littered on top of a Southern drawl.

The compositions flow so powerfully into each other that it's simply therapy -- consoling, comforting and heartwarming. Hearing the Johnny Cash ebb of "Service Road" on this self-titled, plus both vocalists mixing and matching on "Sleepwalkin'" and "Dylan Thomas" makes me wish they got together sooner. I love how they never drift past the mid-tempo range although there's teasing at times, which honestly is where guest guitarist Nick Zinner needs to direct traffic next time.

Hearing them cut loose would be pretty sick and going for that hard rock edge fits everyone in the band, especially Bridgers (if you've heard her work with Julien Baker's boygenius). You get a sense of this in "Big Black Heart" but that's about all the wandering they do from the melodramatic crawl of the record. The other standouts are "Exception to the Rule" with its catchy, infectious chorus and electronic beats, reminding us if they wanted they could make anthems and melodies. Not to mention the country-meets-Elliot Smith space of "My City" which the duo use to bridge geographical gaps, as well as emotional disconnects and the disparities we as humans experience. That's to say, romance, love, family and of course, loss.

And ultimately, with such amazing writers, this album's going to drill deep down into you and leave you missing the things you need in life. The persons you love and the moments you may think's best to forget. Dig in, bring a handkerchief and bite down -- or like I said, have lots of liquor on tap.