Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Conor Oberst: Conor Oberst [Merge, 2008]
It's official. Forget Shins guy James Mercer, Spoon guy Britt Daniel, even Arcade Fire fraterfamilias Win Butler--this vibrato-prone romantic is the greatest melodist in contemporary mega-indie. Whatever his adult solo debut portends for once and future arranger Mike Mogis, the Saddle Creek cartel and his latest girlfriend(s?), its meaning is tunes, with beat enough to carry them forward and no other musical distractions. Unlike Mercer and Daniel, he's about flow--intricacy is an occasional afterthought. Once in a while a guitar part backs up a tasty phrase, and when the time comes, someone in Bright Eyes will gracefully provide it. And oh yeah--the best song here, quite possibly the best song of his life, is basically a rocking refrain: "I Dont Want to Die (In the Hospital)." A