Conor Oberst’s unique, masterful, vocal croaking’s are back for another solo album. Ruminations is Oberst in his rawest, purest, most acoustic and honest moments as well his sixth full length release. The album is a showcase of the brilliant and poignant lyrics of a very accomplished and veteran songwriter.
The opening track Tachycardia is a simple, catchy piano progression with powerful harmonica energy and heartfelt confessions. “It’s a bad dream. I have it seven times a week. I’m the one that has to die.” Continuing the simple, soft energy, Oberst strums the sing-a-long vibe tempo and with the acoustic and harmonica mood, Barbary Coast (Later) stands out as memorable and a favorite track on the record. The harmonica solos are truly magical and display Oberst’s skills as a well-rounded musician.
Gossamer Thin is another mellow piano song and captures ears with a slow waltz vibe and vivid, emotional lyrics. “I don’t want to eat or get out of bed. Try to recall what the therapist said.” With more harmonica highlights on this track (which achieve even crispier, louder brass piercings than the harmonica does earlier in the album), fans begin to discover which instrument Oberst is favoring on this album.
Track four, Counting Sheep, immediately absorbs your attention with intriguing lyrics, “closing my eyes counting sheep gun in my mouth trying to sleep everything ends everything has to.” The solo acoustic rhythm continues the signature singer-songwriter vibe and keeps the intimate energy of the album consistent. The subtle, dynamic harmonica notes and soothing fingerpicking feeling on Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch) creates bonfire vibes. Oberst reveals the album title reference in this song as he sings “A Rumination in my mind, winding like the ramp at the Guggenheim I’m not content but I’m feeling hesitant to build something that’s sacred till the end.”
The Rain Follows The Plow is a gentle, deep track slotted at number six on Ruminations. Oberst’s piano song style is entertaining because it’s as singer-songwriter simple as it is classical and jazz. On this track, Oberst shows his skills with songwriting structure and piano genius, whilst the harmonica attitude and feeling on A Little Uncanny, brings to mind The Decemberists Don’t Carry It All.
It’s hard to make songs that feature harmonica sound different – especially with Oberst’s simple songwriting style on this album – but Next Of Kin ranks high on the list of memorable songs from this record thanks to its catchy and energetic harmonica hook. The song also stands out because of its naturally bright and overall upbeat feeling. Oberst closes the project on a powerful note with Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out. This song’s feeling is completely different than the main mellow theme of the album and immediately hits your ears with pop/rock happy vibes.
Conor Oberst has produced another collection of folk waltzes and ballads and continues to prove his all around success in creating new styles and sounds.
Scott J. Herman