Conor Oberst
Upside Down Mountain (Advance)

Conor Oberst — Upside Down Mountain (Advance) [May 19th, 2014]

USA Flag Conor Oberst — Upside Down Mountain (Advance) 
♣  Poslední dokument o jeho posedlosti únikem, smrtí, plynutím času a potenciálním nalezením klidu ve smyšlené identitě.
♣  Bright Eyes frontman known for introducing indie fans to singer/songwriter tropes like trembling vocals, acoustic guitar, and a confessional approach. Notable instruments:
♣  Collings OM2H
♣  Collings 01SB 

Born: February 15, 1980 in Omaha, NE
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
Album release: May 19th, 2014
Record Label: Nonesuch
Duration:     54:32
01. Time Forgot      (4:37)
02. Zigzagging Toward The Light      (4:05)
03. Hundreds Of Ways      (4:29)
04. Artifact #1      (4:25)
05. Lonely At The Top      (3:45)
06. Enola Gay      (2:24)
07. Double Life      (3:57)
08. Kick      (3:41)
09. Night At Lake Unknown      (4:17)
10. You Are Your Mother’s Child      (3:49)
11. Governor’s Ball      (4:21)
12. Desert Island Questionnaire      (5:41)
13. Common Knowledge      (5:02)
© 2014 Nonesuch Records
Billboard Albums
♣  2014 The Billboard 200     #19
♣  2014 Top Digital Albums     #13
♣  2014 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums     #6
♣  2014 Top Rock Albums     #6
♣  Conor Oberst, voice (1–13), guitar (1–13)
♣  Jonathan Wilson, guitars (1–3, 5–9, 11, 12), percussion (1–3, 7, 8, 11), keyboards (1–3, 7, 8, 12, 13), bass (2, 3, 7, 12), drums (2, 3, 7, 11, 12), voice (2, 3, 11), piano (7), organ (7), glockenspiel (12)
♣  Andy LeMaster, bass (1), guitar (1, 7), voice (6, 7), percussion (7), drums (7), keyboards (12)
♣  Cully Symington, drums (1, 5–8), percussion (1, 5–8)
♣  Klara Söderberg, Johanna Söderberg, voice (1, 3, 8, 9, 11)
♣  Joshua Grange, pedal steel (3, 5, 9)
♣  Nathaniel Walcott, trumpet (3, 11), piano (6, 11), organ (11), keyboard (11, 12)
♣  Scott Vicroy, saxophone (3, 11)
♣  Pete Madsen, trombone (3, 11)
♣  Blake Mills — guitars (4), keyboards (4), percussion (4), voice (4)
♣  Macey Taylor, bass (5, 6, 8, 9, 11)
♣  Orenda Fink, voice (6)
♣  Ben Brodin, vibraphone (9)
♣  Leslie Fagan, flute (9)
♣  John Klinghammer, clarinet (9)
♣  Mike Mogis, pedal steel (11)
♣  Corina Figueroa Escamilla, voice (11, 12)
♣  Jason Boesel, drums (12)
♣  Omar Velasco, guitar (12)
♣  Produced by Jonathan Wilson and Conor Oberst
♣  Mixed by Jonathan Wilson
♣  Recorded at Fivestar Studios (LA, CA), ARC (Omaha, NE) and Blackbird (Nashville, TN)
♣  Engineered by Bryce Gonzales (Fivestar, Blackbird), Andy LeMaster (ARC) and Ernesto Olvera (Blackbird)
♣  Additional Production, Engineering and Mixing on “Artifact #1” by Blake Mills
♣  Recorded at Zeitgeist Studios (LA, CA)
♣  Engineered by Lionel Darenne
♣  Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering Studios (Portland, ME)
♣  Horn Arrangements by Nathaniel Walcott
♣  All songs written by Conor Oberst
♣  All songs by Conor Oberst © 2014 Bedrooms; Bedrooms and Spiders (BMI)
♣  All paintings by Ian Felice: Cover, “Creation of the Bulls.” Back, “Horseman.” Interior, “Firing Squad.” Booklet Covers, Details from “Horseman”
♣  Art Direction and Design by Gary Burden and Jenice Heo for R Twerk & Co
Singer–songwriter Conor Oberst's new solo album, Upside Down Mountain, is out on May 19 via Nonesuch Records, with vinyl due May 30. The album is now available to pre-order with an exclusive print featuring the album art, The Creation of the Bulls by Oberst's friend Ian Felice, with an instant download of the tracks "Hundreds of Ways" (above) and "Governor’s Ball" (below):
♣  Upside Down Mountain features many other friends of Oberst’s, including producer Jonathan Wilson, engineer Andy LeMaster, bassist Macey Taylor, multi–instrumentalist Blake Mills, and the Swedish sibling folk–rock vocal duo First Aid Kit. What started as exploratory demos with producer–musician Jonathan Wilson at his Fivestar Studios in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, in a home Wilson rents from Oberst, became the first de facto album sessions. Returning to his native Omaha, Nebraska, Oberst kept rolling with the help of frequent collaborator, engineer, and friend Andy LeMaster at his own ARC Studios. Even more tracking followed in Omaha last November and December. Then Oberst and Wilson moved south to Blackbird Studio in Nashville.
♣  “This is a return to an earlier way I wrote,” Oberst says of the songs on Upside Down Mountain. “It’s more intimate or personal, if you will. Even if all my songs come from the same place, you make different aesthetic decisions along the way. For me, language is a huge part of why I make music. I’m not the greatest guitar player or piano player — I’m not the greatest singer, either — but I feel if I can come up with melodies I like that are fused with poetry I’m proud of, then that’s what I bring to the table. That’s why I’m able to do this.”
♣  The vinyl, pressed on a single 140–gram vinyl at Pallas MFG in Diepholz, Germany, includes the complete album on CD.
♣  Prior to the album release, a limited–edition seven–inch single will be released exclusively for Record Store Day (Saturday, April 19). This special single will feature album track "Hundreds of Ways" along with album outtake "Fast Friends" on the B–side.

By Ian Cohen; May 19, 2014; Score: 6.5
♣  Conor Oberst is a 34–year old married man. He’s been a musician in the public eye for nearly half of his life, and over the past decade, he’d be most accurately described as a folk artist. His latest album Upside Down Mountain is being released on Nonesuch, a label whose release slate includes the Black Keys, Natalie Merchant, and Nickel Creek. The cover art is designed by one of the guys in the Felice Brothers, and he’ll be trekking around the country with Dawes. The moment you hear Oberst sing, though, you will forget every single one of these facts and remember every positive and negative association you have with Bright Eyes instead — there’s just no mistaking him for anyone else at this point, and it’s unclear how he feels about that. While claiming “this is a return to an earlier way I wrote”, Upside Down Mountain is Oberst’s latest documentation of his obsessions with escape, death, the passing of time, and the potential of finding serenity in an assumed identity.
♣  That said, Upside Down Mountain isn't a Bright Eyes album, so Oberst’s not driven by the same incessant need for romantic and artistic validation that kept him going until Lifted, nor will circumstances ever align the way they did for his protracted 2005 critical breakthrough. On the plus side of the ledger, you can understand what the hell Oberst is talking about most of the time on Upside Down Mountain, which makes it an immediate improvement over Cassadaga and The People’s Key, two albums that somehow managed to be cryptic and pedantic at the same time.
♣  Besides possessing one of the strongest melodies Oberst has ever penned (and there are plenty here), “Time Forgot” is a welcome reintroduction to the guy who never had trouble getting his point across. Here, he longs to grow a beard, to be left alone, to let the wind scatter thoughts, to just listen. This puts him in a similar mindset as he was on his self–titled record from 2008, the last truly great thing he’s put his name on. ♣  ut there’s been an unmistakable change of perspective — on Conor Oberst cuts like “I Don’t Want to Die (In the Hospital)”, death was impending because he was Conor Oberst, the wildly talented and self–destructive rock singer. Here, he’s not chasing death, but death will catch up with him because he’s Conor Oberst, human being.
♣  The most resonant moments of Upside Down Mountain follow suit in deconstructing Oberst’s myth of himself — during the otherwise chintzy, rhinestone cowboy pop of “Hundreds of Ways”, “I hope I am forgotten when I die” is the most poisonously enunciated line on the LP. Meanwhile, on the mesmerizing minor–key whisper of “Artifact #1”, Oberst just wants to be forgotten while he’s alive — “I don’t want a second chance to be an object of desire/ if that means slipping through your hands.” Sometimes he even has a sense of humor about it all; though “Kick” is addressed to a luckless Kennedy, it’s not a “Diane Young” –style philosophical treatise, but rather one fuck–up relating to another. And when he admonishes a self–absorbed drunk during “Enola Gay”’s rummy strut, it might just be himself. The evocation of solitude in a crowded club links it back to his atomic self–pitying from Digital Ash in a Digital Urn's “Hit the Switch”, but anyone can learn from its hook: “The world’s mean, getting meaner too/ So why do you have to make it all about you?”
♣  But elsewhere on Upside Down Mountain, he wields populist observation like a politician, trying to utilize his homespun wisdom from an elevated plane. Over a decade ago, he claimed “There is no truth, there is only you/ And what you make the truth”, and that sounds more convincing than his attempts to convey his own version of the truth as the genuine article. During “Time Forgot”, he muses, “They say everyone has a choice to make/ To be loved or to be free”, but, really, who says that?  He’s got a lot of big ideas about love throughout — “True love hides like city stars”, “Love was the message...full stop”, “Freedom is the opposite of love”, “Our love is a protective poison”, “There is no dignity in love.” It's easy to think of him like Don Draper, hacking out emotionally manipulative and impeccably worded pitches on a Coronet until something sticks.
♣  His facility with pat truths is most evident in “You Are Your Mother’s Child”, a song that bears an instant resemblance to I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning's homemade valentine “First Day of My Life” in its unadorned simplicity. It’s open–ended enough to be adopted by anyone who wants it to be about their child, but after a striking, writerly first verse, an adolescent’s all–American upbringing feels less like an actual person’s experience than it does a songwriting exercise. It could’ve been written about anyone, but it also could’ve been written by anyone.
♣  But it couldn’t have been sung that way, and the saving grace of Upside Down Mountain is that it makes the case for Oberst as a truly unique and remarkable vocalist.  Earlier in his career, his tremble, quaver and vibrato were seen as affectations of an amateur, but here they're all confidently and carefully utilized like a mastered instrument. For the most part, it gives character to gauzy C&W like “Double Life” and the chugga–chugga festival–folk of “Zigzagging Toward The Light”, but he still has a way of throwing in awkward phrases that stick in your craw like popcorn kernels — “Snickers bar”, “Japanese arcade”, “Klonopin eyes”, and the pronunciation of “parlour trick” to sound like “politrick.”
♣  One line in particular stands out — “I stole all the rhinestones from Carolina/ And sold them out in Bakersfield for cash.” Maybe it’s playing to and against type as the rambling folk artist, since Carolina and Bakersfield are as real as it gets, even if they’re being used as placeholders. It's the kind of line Ryan Adams would unspool — a fitting association since Upside Down Mountain is essentially Oberst’s Ashes & Fire. ♣  It's gorgeous to the point of near gaudiness, a “return to form” after a strange decade evolving from wildly prolific, heartbreak soundtracking, Winona Ryder–dating enfant terrible into a domesticated Americana bard no longer interested in why to be young is to be sad. Hopefully, Oberst will find a way to make "older and wiser" just as revelatory. (
♣ While Conor Oberst is best known for his work as Bright Eyes, he has diversified his resume in recent years by releasing music with his supergroup Monsters of Folk, leading his Mystic Valley Band and reuniting with his post–hardcore outfit Desaparecidos. Now, the songwriter release a new solo album Upside Down Mountain on May 20 through Nonesuch.
♣  Previous reports indicated that the country–leaning album was recorded in Nashville with producer Jonathan Wilson (Dawes, Father John Misty). Swedish folk sisters First Aid Kit appear on much of the album.
♣  This is Obert’s first proper solo effort since 2008′s self–titled album. He then released Outer South as Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band in 2009.”

Editorial Reviews
♣  Singer–songwriter Conor Oberst s debut album for Nonesuch Records, Upside Down Mountain, is, as its title implies, a study in contrasts, a glance up to the heavens and a glimpse into the abyss. “There s a certain solitude to this record,” Oberst admits, and themes of loneliness, dislocation, and regret repeatedly surface. Yet its making was far from solitary, as Oberst gathered friends old and new for the recording, including producer Jonathan Wilson, engineer Andy LeMaster, bassist Macey Taylor, multi–instrumentalist Blake Mills, and the Swedish sibling folk–rock vocal duo First Aid Kit. On hushed ballads like “Double Life” and “Artifact #1,” the instrumentation is often stripped down to voices, guitar, and ghostly keyboard; those songs are juxtaposed with tracks like “Governor s Ball,” which sports practically buoyant horn charts, and “Kick,” which is exuberant rock and roll. A squall of electric guitar at the end of “Zigzagging Toward the Light” segues into a Johnny Cash shuffle on “Hundreds of Ways.” The overall warmth of the sound tempers the starkness of the stories being told and Oberst renders his carefully detailed lyrics with an easy intimacy, the still youthful quaver in his voice poignantly underscoring the rueful, decidedly mature words.
♣  Upside Down Mountain also, says Oberst, stands in deliberate contrast to the harder–edged, hypnotically electronic material on 2011 s The People s Key, his previous album with Bright Eyes, or the thrashing social commentary of side–project Desaparecidos: "I m always reacting to what I did most recently. The songs I had been working on before this, for the last Bright Eyes record, they were personal to me and had come from elements of my life, but I wanted them to be bigger, cryptic, coded, to find words I hadn t found in songs before. And working on the Desaparecidos stuff, it s such a specific project and demands a more topical approach. It s made with that purpose in mind."
♣  “Maybe this is a return to an earlier way I wrote songs,” he continues. “It s more intimate or personal, if you will. Even it all my songs come from the same place, you make different aesthetic decisions along the way. For me, language is a huge part of why I make music. I m not the greatest guitar player or piano player I m not the greatest singer, either but I feel if I can come up with melodies I like that are fused with poetry I m proud of, then that s what I bring to the table. That s why I m able to do this.”
Press: (US) / (rest of world)
Agent: Ground Control Tou
♣  The shambolic Bright Eyes auteur submits to a Wilsonian extreme makeover...
A decade and a half has passed since Connor Oberst popped into view as an 18–year–old lo–fi Heartland prodigy with a barely contained torrent of words pouring out of him, and it’s tempting to look at the 11 proper albums he’s made with his ever–changing band Bright Eyes and under his own name as an extended coming–of–age narrative. Along the way, he’s survived being classified as “emo’s Bob Dylan”, embraced as an indie heartthrob and vilified as an insufferable, navel–gazing narcissist, before attaining a reasonable degree of cred as a thoughtful, prolific and fearless artist endlessly eager to throw himself into challenging circumstances.
♣  In 2005, he simultaneously released a pair of Bright Eyes albums, the folky I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and, in a total departure from his previous records, the synth–driven Digital Ash In A Digital Urn. After Bright Eyes’ relatively straightforward (apart from the Easter eggs hidden in the artwork) Cassadega (2007), he traveled to Mexico with a bunch of musician friends to cut 2008’s Conor Oberst, then took them on an extended tour, at the end of which he initiated an experiment in democracy, calling on his bandmates to write songs and take lead vocals.
♣  The resulting LP, Outer South (2009) released under the nameplate Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band, was a ramshackle mess and apparently got that notion out of his head. On Oberst’s next endeavour, 2011’s The People’s Key, made with his longtime collaborators Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott as Bright Eyes, he pushed himself to the opposite extreme, going for a modern–pop/arena–rock record that Mogis described at the time as “Police meets Cars” and Oberst compared (in theory) to the Killers. And while the Cars’ influence is detectable in the taut grooves, the record’s overall weirdness rendered it far from radio–ready.
♣  Now a 33–year–old married man with a career spanning nearly half his lifetime, Oberst appears to have gained a degree of perspective on his work and his place in the musical universe. His boyish earnestness, the frayed, adenoidal quaver he claims to despise and his obsessive love of language are unchanged, seemingly as permanent as birthmarks, and are now the self–acknowledged tools of his trade. But, as he’s shown so often during the last nine years, the context is everything for this artist. On this go-round, Oberst turned to Jonathan Wilson, the North Carolina native turned LA musical preservationist who’s making a name for himself as a producer (Dawes, Father John Misty, Roy Harper) and solo artist.
♣  Oberst knew what he was getting — a virtuosic instrumentalist and hands–on studio pro who values authenticity and overtly venerates the golden age of SoCal folk rock in his work, different values than Oberst had attempted to cohere with on his previous records. Given the stylistic thrust and a batch of Oberst songs that are somewhat more accessible and less verbose than anything he’s penned before, Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit were a natural fit, and on the six tracks on which they appear, their harmonized voices caress Oberst’s wobbly bray like liquid gold, filling in the crags. They bring an organic richness to the aural backdrops meticulously constructed by Wilson, who further burnishes the arrangements with brass, reeds, vibraphone, glockenspiel, pedal steel and keyboards. The producer’s neoclassic aesthetic brings colour, scale and retro richness — but also much–needed structure — to signature Oberst opuses like “Time Forgot”, “Kick” and “Governor’s Ball”, so much so that less ornamented tracks like the solo acoustic “You Are Your Mother’s Son” and the closing “Common Knowledge” seem threadbare by comparison. But the album’s deepest, most beguiling song, “Artifact #1”, features only young LA standout Blake Mills, whose guitars, keys and percussion render the performance luminous, and whose name I strongly suspect you’ll be seeing in these pages with some frequency in the future.
♣  Upside Down Mountain makes a persuasive case for itself as the Conor Oberst album for people who don’t particularly like Conor Oberst, but more meaningfully, it’s a record this restless artist can settle into and build on as he continues to mature, because it solves his chronic problems while presenting him with a newfound sweet spot. (Bud Scoppa)
Conor Oberst
♣  Several of these songs strike me as hallucinatory or dreamlike.
♣  All my songs are daydreams — no joke. These were written over a three-year period, so in that sense it seems less conceptual than other records I’ve made, where the songs were written closer together. But I suppose there are some through–lines, thematically speaking. I guess the idea that we’re all alone on our own little mountaintops, that life is a struggle for connection, to feel less alone. We do the best with the tools we’re afforded, but we all die alone. Solitude should not be the enemy. It is our most natural state.
♣  We’ve watched you grow up in public. How do you view your journey as an artist and a human being, and how does this album reflect that journey?
♣  There’s no dramatic arc to my narrative. If I ever self–mythologize, it’s usually for comic effect. A common critique of my music has always been that I’m very self–absorbed and narcissistic, which it probably is, but it's interesting to note now with social media and Instagram and Facebook how disgustingly self–absorbed most everybody is. I don’t feel bad about mine in the least. I’ve turned my self–absorption into rock’n’roll records for the last 20 years. Not everyone deserves a platform. You should have to earn it by contributing something of value. Being famous for being famous is just straight–up sad. And funny. Fortaken: 

Conor Oberst
Upside Down Mountain (Advance)