Conor Oberst hasn’t had the best time in the media spotlight as of late, but it’s not something that will be discussed in detail here. Away from the court cases and allegations, the man behind Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos and Monsters Of Folk is simply a musician.
It’s this back-to-basics approach that makes Upside Down Mountain such an enjoyable listen, filled with broad strokes of acoustic guitar, choral backing vocals and tinkered piano ambience. Perhaps an immediate comparison line to draw is to Oberst’s 2002 release under the Bright Eyes name, Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground. It runs a similar gamut of centralising itself around Oberst’s darkly vivid storytelling and oft-startling imagery, leaving its surrounding instrumentation to take a back seat with the occasional flourish (such as on the mariachi-flavoured ‘Artifact #1’). Upside Down Mountain shows depth and a bold maturity – and considering Oberst sounded like an old soul when he first started making music as a teenager, this is certainly saying something.
After some years of silence, it’s truly a delight to hear Oberst making music again. At the end of the day, it’s what he knows best.