Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
Without anyone noticing, Conor Oberst and rising singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers quietly teamed up to form a songwriting partnership and recorded their self-titled debut album as Better Oblivion Community Center. And, in January, they surprise-dropped the LP and performed on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert in a matter of a few hours, which certainly stoked excitement about their nascent project. Release stunts aside, BOCC is a strong first step for the critical darlings, showcasing a different side of Oberst and reinforcing why Bridgers is one of the predominant young songwriters of her time. Yet, Better Oblivion Community Center feels familiar in a few ways. Fans of Oberst’s Bright Eyes and solo projects will feel right at home with the arrangements; that electric-country vibe, which sometimes veers into harder territory, shines throughout the brief, 37-minute, 10song collection. But for Oberst, the simplicity of the storytelling is still fresh. The dark, mid-tempo “Service Road” is the tale of one’s brother spiraling through depression, and the acoustic guitar-driven ballad “Forest Lawn” finds the new friends in a state of perpetual longing. The standout moment, though, is “My City,” a number about “spells of forgetfulness” and “little moments of purpose,” where it’s clear that a dead relationship will just not leave their minds. Oberst assumes lead vocals first but, by the end, Bridgers has come full-force into the center. It’s little details like this that make Better Oblivion Community Center an album clearly well thought out and hopefully not a one-off affair.