Tue. Aug 16th, 2022

Phoebe Bridgers & Conor Oberst | Better Oblivion Community Center

Besides the incredibly epic band name, Better Oblivion Community Center brings together two iconic singer-songwriters of the indie rock world, Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers. Together they delivered a masterful album filled with brilliant writing and unparalleled musical chemistry.

Conor Oberst has been involved with numerous amazing musical projects for over twenty years, but most notably he’s known for his band Bright Eyes. Phoebe Bridgers is one of the brightest newcomers to the scene and over the past few years earned massive critical acclaim with the 2017 release of her debut full-length album, Stranger In The Alps. Better Oblivion Community Center is not her first collaboration as she teamed up with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus for the excellent 2018 release, boygenius.

Better Oblivion Community Center fittingly opens with the first song that Oberst and Bridgers wrote together, “Didn’t Know What I Was In For”. It immediately thrusts you into the midst of their minds and sets the stage for an album full of songs that make you think deeply about life and feel a wide range of emotions. Below is their great live performance of “Didn’t Know What I Was In For” for KEXP.

Throughout the album, you can tell that Oberst and Bridgers had fun working together through the creative process. “Sleepwalkin'” is one of the best examples of that. It’s one of the more dynamic and cleverly composed songs on the album as it transitions back-and-forth between different tempos and gives a great representation of how Oberst and Bridgers are always perfectly in sync with each other.

“Dylan Thomas” was both the lead single and the final song written for the album. The band delivered an amazing first performance of “Dylan Thomas” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and released an awesome official music video for it. Conor Oberst described “Dylan Thomas” as:

“That was the last one we wrote for the record. It happened really fast. That was one of the ones that came the easiest. Maybe because we’d written however many songs before, so we knew the way we worked together at that point. But that was one that felt like a happy accident.”

“Service Road” is one of the more emotional songs on the album with lyrics that are pulled deep from within Oberst’s soul. His brother tragically died in 2016 at the age of 42 and you can’t help but draw the parallels between that tragedy and the lyrics of “Service Road”. Oberst delivers the lyrics with a raw vulnerability and heartbreak that you can hear as he sings

Farewell, so long
‘Til the trouble that you made and hate is gone

With “Exception To The Rule” Oberst and Bridgers incorporate pulsing synths and spacey vocals to deliver one of the clear stand-out tracks on the album.

“Chesapeake” might just be my favorite song on Better Oblivion Community Center. Bridgers and Oberst gracefully harmonize throughout the song and sing about the magical embrace and impact that live music can have on someone throughout their life. It’s a powerful song and so beautifully written.

“My City” brings a type of ’90s, Sheryl Crow vibe, that you can’t help but love. The song is carried throughout with a catchy guitar riff and builds into a climactic bridge/outro. Here’s a video of them performing it on CBS’s Saturday Sessions.

“Forest Lawn” is a delightful track with brightly plucked guitars and excellently constructed lyrics, reminiscent of Nick Drake.

On “Big Black Heart”, Oberst and Bridgers slowly build their angst until finally letting loose and unleashing some epic grunge energy at the end.

Better Oblivion Community Center is concluded with a cover of Taylor Hollingsworth’s 2011 song “Dominos“. Oberst and Bridgers were able to maintain and certain purity and reverence to the original while adding their own creative spin.

Better Oblivion Community Center released a couple of extra tracks on a 7 inch including an alternative version of “Sleepwalkin'” and new original track “Little Trouble”.

Before I heard Better Oblivion Community Center I knew I would like it as I was already a fan of both Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers. But I was pleasantly surprised at just how masterfully written and gorgeous this album turned out to be.

If this is the only album they ever create together they can hold their heads high at a job extremely well done. But I certainly hope that they continue working together and keep the doors open on the Better Oblivion Community Center.

Follow Better Oblivion Community Center on Instagram: @betteroblivioncommunitycenter| Website:betteroblivioncommunitycenter.org/

Better Oblivion Community Center release date: 01.23.19 | Label: Dead Oceans

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