Conor Oberst’s 2005 track under the pseudonym Bright Eyes, famously known as When the President talks to God, is etched in my memory and must be the most memorable hook in a song I’ve never bought beyond the classic annual Happy Birthday. It is a stark reminder of the cultural criticism hypocrisy faces in a political environment. A decade of identifying Oberst almost exclusively with that song made me hopeful of a new perspective with new album Salutations.
Oberst’s intonation and unique folk singing sensibility are easily recognisable in his new work. Instantly, I could tell I was in for a bit of preaching to. Napalm and Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch) were highlights for me. The songs seemed conversational. Like advice delivered through stories about one’s life to a dear friend, Oberst’s lyrics seem to bring authenticity and raw emotion, which you’d be bloody hoping for being a folk singer. I loved the prolific use of the harmonica and occasional fiddle augmenting Oberst’s heartfelt words. Tachycardia is a heart rate that exceeds the normal resting rate. It’s also the name of track ten and when I got to it I realised the album was 17 songs long. 17 songs? My heart rate increased significantly.
Overall, Salutations was a thoughtful folk album requiring quite a lot of attention. I reckon it’d be most enjoyed on a lazy Sunday afternoon with an intellectual friend when you both had the time to digest the lyric and explore the resulting philosophical dialogue, no doubt inevitable.