It’s always hard for me to write about Conor Oberst albums because he’s my favorite songwriter (probably my personal GOAT). I’ve liked every single album (song, really) he’s ever released. So is it worth anybody’s time to read about his new album from my perspective, probably not, but I’m going to do it anyway.
Conor Oberst’s last album (Ruminations) was his most critically acclaimed album since I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning. Ruminations is personal, heartbreaking and sparse. It’s a masterpiece of self reflection and a glimpse into the personal anguish Oberst suffered from health problems, false rape allegations, and insomnia. When I heard that these songs were being re-recorded with a full band along with 7 new songs, I was excited and also really confused. Why did these songs need to be re-recorded? Why release them again less than a year latter? But I’m conditioned to be excited over any new Conor Oberst release.
After listening to Salutations nearly nonstop since it’s release I’m less confused (but not entirely). The full band versions of the songs from Ruminations are well done. Musically, they sound better. Ruminations was haunting and Salutations makes the pill easier to swallow.
Maria Taylor’s angelic voice turns “Counting Sheep” into a lullaby instead of a suicide note. The lyrics are still heartbreaking, but the music and the backing vocals ease the pain of the song. Tachycardia comes to life with a full band. I always felt the last verse needed a full band to really drive home the idea the light bulb being lit for the first time at the World’s fair. The only song that loses just a little bit of it’s appeal is “Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out”. It was a perfect ending to a great album and on Salutations it seems kind of lumped in without much thought.
The seven new songs belong on Salutations and probably wouldn’t’ have fit very well on Ruminations (The title track “Salutations” being the exception). “Napalm” is a rock country song that has Oberst sounding a lot like John Prine. My two favorite new songs are “Overdue” and “Anytime Soon”. Both sound like Mystic Valley Band B-sides.
Is Salutations a necessary album? Probably not. But it’s still a great album and an important addition to an already stellar discography. The enamored and admiring fan in me will probably place this album way too high on my end of the year list, but that’s fine with me. I’m a loyal fan and I don’t care who knows it.