Conor Oberst | 4 stars out of 5
Still wearing his heart on his sleeve at 28, indie songwriting godhead Conor Oberst continues his self-conscious maturation process on his first solo album in 15 years. (For the record, this album is not credited to Bright Eyes, the group Oberst has long been synonymous with, because partner Mike Mogis was busy with other projects when it was recorded in Tepoztlán, Mexico, earlier this year.)
On Conor Oberst, Oberst's songs are as well-crafted and laced with poetic imagery as ever. And his nuevo Americana musical approach is as deeply relaxed as the cover shot of him lying in a hammock would suggest. He does work himself up a bit, though, on the rollicking boogie-woogie I Don't Want to Die (in a Hospital), one of a handful of tracks, along with Danny Callahan and the delicate closer Milk Thistle that continue Oberst's obsession with his own mortality.
Oberst's rewards are undeniable, first among them being Moab, another travelin' song from a guy who's already written Another Travelin' Song, and who this time around tries to make himself believe that “there is nothing the road cannot heal,” though he knows that's a lie. But for all of its attributes coming from an artist who models his career after classic rockers such as Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, Conor Oberst is still a minor disappointment. That's because in the six years since Bright Eyes knocked on greatness's door with Lifted, Oberst hasn't quite managed to turn the handle and walk on in.
Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer