A little over a year ago I gave my top 10 favorite Conor Oberst songs, but looking back I don’t like the list nor do I think it showcases Oberst’s versatility and his changing lyrical writing style in the later half of the 2000s.
2012 was a great year for Oberst fans. The long-awaited One of My Kind documentary and CD was released under Oberst’s record company Team Love, his punk band Desaparecidos released two new songs and toured the west coast, and Oberst embarked on a full U.S. and Europe solo tour where I got to see him in Chicago and Madison.
One of the beauty of Oberst is the uncertainty about what his next album will be.
That said, let’s get this list going.
I largely ignored Oberst’s other musical outlets, so in this new list I decided I’d do the complete opposite and not include any Bright Eyes songs.
Enjoy!*These are in no particular order.
1. “Nikorette” – Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
In 2007, after a tour to in support of Bright Eyes’ Cassadaga album, Oberst headed down to Mexico with a group of his friends to record a solo album.
The solo album was created but so was a new band.
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band released Outer South in 2009. It’s the definition of a collaboration album with six of the 16 tracks penned by other members of the band.
Nikorette is one of the most upbeat songs on the album and highlights Oberst’s ability to write playful yet meaningful songs.
2. “Temazcal” – Monsters of Folk
Conor Oberst, M. Ward, Jim James, and Mike Mogis started Monsters of Folk back in 2004 but didn’t release their self-titled album until 2009.
What they released has become one of my favorite albums to listen to in the fall.
The phrasing in Temazcal is what makes it such an addicting and easy song to enjoy.
3. “Eagle on a Pole” – Conor Oberst
The sky is blue, just don’t go telling everyone.
4. “To All the Lights in the Window” – Conor Oberst at the Mystic Valley Band
Religion is often a subject in Oberst’s songs. This time it takes on the role of story telling tool, a lyrical style that was used often in the 2011 Bright Eyes album The People’s Key.
Common stories from the Bible are used as means to express feelings and add flavor to the song’s overall story of unrequited love. To All the Lights in the Window is Oberst at his lyrical best.
5. “Milk Thistle” – Conor Oberst
I’m not sure exactly what this song is about, but it continues to mesmerize me, or, at the very least, makes me feel really relaxed. I am sucker for stripped-down songs with just vocals and an acoustic guitar because it showcases how music, however small and simple, has the tremendous power to move us.
This song does just that.
6. “Man and Wife, The Latter (Damaged Goods)” – Desaparecidos
There are songs that you may well like, but get sick of after hearing it over and over. There are songs that you listen to only when you’re in a certain mood or mindset.
None of those apply to this song.
The notion of having a favorite song is preposterous to me, but if I was forced to answer that question, this song would be my answer. The energy and high I get from playing this song extremely loud reminds me why I love music.
7. “Gentleman’s Pact” – Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
Oberst’s talent at word phrasing is at show again in this song. A commenter said it perfectly: “I really wish I could spend some time in this man’s head… The amount of beautiful lines he manages to come up is amazing to me.”
It’s songs like this that make me think Oberst would be a phenomenal rapper.
8. “Ahead of the Curve” – Monsters of Folk
There are a lot of great songs off of Monster’s of Folks’ only album, but this takes the cake as my favorite and one of my favorite songs Oberst has ever written.
It’s a mix between Bright Eyes’ Cassadaga album and Outer South, and it couldn’t be more addicting and perfect.
9. “I’ve Got the Reason #2″ – Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
There’s a lot of talent in the Mystic Valley Band. If that wasn’t realized in the quality of the songs not penned by Oberst, it most certainly is realized in this song.
This is the most well-rounded song off the Outer South album, and I am not surprised it became a fan favorite during the tour.
10. “One of My Kind”- Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
This song crosses my mind every time I come back home from college. It perfectly articulates my feeling for my hometown and some (not all) of the people I’ve come across during my childhood while living there.
It also preaches a worthy message of forgiveness and recognizing we’re all of the same “kind.”