Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Dawn Oberg

  • Horticulture Wars [Blossom Theory, 2008] **
  • Rye [Blossom Theory, 2012] A
  • Bring [Blossom Theory, 2015] A-
  • Nothing Rhymes With Orange [Blossom Theory EP, 2017] A
  • 2020 Revision [self-released EP, 2020] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Horticulture Wars [Blossom Theory, 2008]
"Old hussies never die," she brags before cheering on her daffodils, micro-managing her soufflé, and considering the purchase of a French maid's outfit. ("Soufflé," "Since You Put Up With Me") **

Rye [Blossom Theory, 2012]
There are breakup albums and then there's this: forties-ish woman, heavy of voice and keyboard with wit and juices lightly flowing, introduces herself as "The Girl Who Sleeps With Books" and regrets plenty while continuing to enjoy the title elixir, although it brings him to mind and that hurts. In a song that lasts 1:35 she hints at why, twice: "He likes to read Thucydides / But doesn't mock stupidities / He's probably read Euripides as well / But he's really not the type to read and tell." Midpart's more meditative, including straight advice directed straight to a stranger straight from the heart. Then the actual breakup tale--"No one was was vindictive, no one lied / Shagged the nanny or the pool boy on the side"--gets us to a celebration of her true love, which is San Francisco. "The bars are sexier than sex," she claims, and if it makes her feel better she should definitely think that. A

Bring [Blossom Theory, 2015]
Oberg sings in an alto that doesn't actually go flat when it modulates way down as is its wont. Delivering nine expertly wrought songs in 27 minutes, she plays acoustic piano over G-B-D with jazz gestalt, zero-plus solos, and a beat more martial than swinging. The song to the God she doesn't believe in kind of rocks even so; the song about the seductive geometry of the martini glass devotes 30 seconds to chamber music. Male love objects are MIA, although she digs her bartender; three outspoken tracks praise female friends, only one of whom deserves to be as famous as she does. Figure Oberg really isn't "so good at loving anybody up close." But you and me are at just the right distance: "Want to help your dead ass fly away when you've had your last breath / Want to rip a new one in the mean angel of death / Want to crush all your despair I want to make you laugh / Want to make St. Peter testify on your behalf." A-

Nothing Rhymes With Orange [Blossom Theory EP, 2017]
It's not good that the most satisfying anti-Trump "long player" yet to surface comprises three compact download-only songs by a Berklee-trained Nashville-to-Frisco lounge DIY-er. But the not good part is the paucity of alternatives--Oberg is a serious talent who gets some nasty licks in. The title track marches smartly from "A walking slab of brain damage beneath a bad toupee" to "He can't grab my snatch but he can bite my bloody rag" without deigning to utter the name of the "orange-tweeting twat" who rhymes with "dump/And stump and chump and bump and lump and hump and slump and rump." That dirty business done, Oberg declines to address him again. Instead she delivers a rhymed disquisition on "double-blind and peer-reviewed" empirical method that's over faster than Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" while repeating "We all enjoy results of scientific inquiry" three times just in case some dumbass missed the point. And then she bids us and history adieu: "I can see the sunset burning at the end of the world from the end of the continent/The final frame of this ill-fated experiment." "I'd Rather Be Wrong," that one is called. It doubts she is. A

2020 Revision [self-released EP, 2020]
Three songs lasting not quite nine minutes, the first two powered up slightly from the evolving cabaret-rock of 2017's three-song Nothing Rhymes With Orange and also a touch more passionately sung, which given the stakes can be moving. The extraordinary "Care" explains empathy with uncommon metaphysical bravado to professed Christians who throw refugees "in an icebox/And his children in a cage." "It's 12:01" catalogues police killings in liberal San Francisco, where Oberg has a day job with the EPA. "Mitch McConnell" is slighter, though that "Hitler on crack" crack is a keeper. Prolific she's not, a keeper she is. Vote for her with by downloading now. A-

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