Better Oblivion Community Center Album Review

Better Oblivion Community Center Album Cover (2019)

It’s an odd couple. Conor Oberst is a legend in the indie music genre. He still manages to stay relevant twenty-something years after the start of his career. And Phoebe Bridgers is a relatively new voice to the indie music scene, but one who is quickly making a big name for herself. Conor Oberst appeared on one song of Phoebe Bridgers’ debut album in 2017, but now they have a full-length album together. And they pair so well. They’re like wine and cheese. Together they are Better Oblivion Community Center.

The Sum of Two Parts

Going back and listening to Conor Oberst’s music is like going through a dusty box of jewelry in the attic; the gems rediscovered never lose their value no matter how often they go forgotten. For those who do not recognize Conor Oberst’s name, the band Bright Eyes may sound more familiar. Oberst’s band Bright Eyes is an essential part of the music scene of the ’00s and ’10s. He is an exceptional talent for lyrics. Any writer worth their salt can recognize the poetic mastery consistent throughout Oberst’s work, both as frontman of Bright Eyes and in his solo career. The album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (2005), Oberst’s magnum opus, is still widely listened to and appreciated.

Phoebe Bridgers is unstoppable. She’s a relatively new face to the indie scene by comparison with Conor Oberst’s legacy, but she’s been busy. Her debut album Stranger in the Alps released in 2017. She followed her solo work with two supergroups: boygenius (2018), her collaboration with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, and Better Oblivion Community Center (2019) with Conor Oberst. Most recently, she produced a track for singer-songwriter Christian Lee Hutson called “Northsiders”. Basically, Phoebe Bridgers is one person to keep an eye on. At 24 years old, she is already part of some of the best music in the indie scene, and she shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers. Photo courtesy of rollingstone.com

A Better Oblivion

“Dylan Thomas” is one of the highlights of the album. Thematically, it encapsulates the sense of doom consistent throughout the album. Dylan Thomas was a poet famous for writing “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” who drank himself to death in 1953. A lot of his poems are about facing one’s own oblivion. Suitable, perhaps, for these two songwriters to invite Dylan Thomas along for this one song since both Oberst and Bridgers have plenty of songs that touch on the same subject.

The music video for “Dylan Thomas”

What is the difference between death and oblivion? The difference is complete destruction in both life and memory. Oblivion is not just death; it is to be forgotten–even before death. Disappearing into a crowd, losing track of one’s identity, being drowned out by ear-splitting sound, these are all forms of oblivion represented on this album. Sometimes it feels good to go somewhere new and be forgotten for a while, a service the Better Oblivion Community Center is happy to offer.

Bridgers and Oberst sing in tandem on every song. They imbue each song with their respective styles both acoustically and lyrically. What’s interesting about juxtaposing them in this way is it reveals them to be closely related. They are cut from the same cloth of singer-songwriters. It is very possible that Bridgers was influenced by the movement of folk-inspired indie rock Oberst started years ago. It is as though, musically, Oberst is Bridger’s surrogate father. Many of these songs sound like they could have come from either Stranger in the Alps or I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning due to their attention to concrete details in their lyrics. Both songwriters have the intuition of poets. This album is a treasure worth holding onto.

Bridgers and Oberst. Photo coutesy of rollingstone.com

At the Community Center

Better Oblivion Community Center performed on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert the day of their album release. The video has the effect of an old advertisement complete with an actual phone number that flashes on the screen (785-433-5534). Call now to reach the Community Center to hear about the services they offer! They are here to bring you a better oblivion experience!