Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band-One Of My Kind
Record Label: Team Love
Release Date: May 31, 2012
After twenty-five (give or take) albums, nineteen (give or take) EPs and countless bands and projects over the last 21 years, Conor Oberst is nothing if not prolific. Never far from the musical consciousness, Oberst and his Mystic Valley Band have returned to whet our collective appetites for alt country and quivering vocals. Less of a cohesive album and more of a compilation of random Mystic Valley Band tracks, One Of My Kind is a collection of country songs about loving/hating your hometown and tales of lost loves. Released as a companion for a feature length documentary about Oberst and co., One Of My Kind certainly holds its own in such a voluminous back catalogue. The Mystic Valley band comprised of Oberst, Nik Freitas, Taylor Hollingsworth, Macey Taylor, Nate Walcott and Jason Boesel, all on various revolving instruments, have surprisingly equal input into the creating of this set of songs, with only five songs fully credited to Oberst, and alternating vocals.
Kicking off with ‘One Of My Kind’, an ode to people who are just as awesome as oneself, the album is off to a rocking start. Sounding reminiscent of Oberst’s Desaparecidos, the track is a southern rock stomp, with a fist-pumping chorus, and Oberst’s instantly recognizable, intelligent yet simplistic lyrics. As catchy as chicken pox on a playground, it deals with the topic of escaping and returning to your hometown, and seeing how people have changed whilst still the same. Driven by a great synth line that runs through most of the song, ‘One Of My Kind’ is one of the strongest tracks off the album. ‘Gentleman’s Pact’ has already done the rounds on a tour EP in 2008, is well worth another highlight. Oberst’s lyrics are typically poetic with the brilliantly mocking line ‘I tried to die young with my true love/ Ended up a millionaire’, aimed at every stereotypical folk singer.
‘Breezy’ is the most striking track on the album. Entirely piano-led and sung in Oberst’s trademark quiver, it deals with the death of Sabrina Dium, the harpist who toured with Bright Eyes in 2005 and passed away in January of 2007. One of the saddest tracks Oberst has ever penned (and that is quite a feat), it’s dripping in genuinity and beautiful one liners. After ‘Breezy’ is where a change suddenly occurs. For the next six tracks, there’s a different vocalist for each. Central City is catchy enough, but ultimately forgettable with the sharp vocals being somewhat annoying. ‘
'I Got The Reason’ appears to be an attempt an R&B track, and whilst each section of the song being skillfully executed, the vocals being especially attractive, it just doesn’t work, with the track sounding somewhat like a Flight Of The Conchords-esque parody of a soul song. ‘Learn To Stop Time’ is a straight up country song that is both catchy and uncharacteristically optimistic and upbeat. Both smile-inducing and poetic, it’s the strongest track from the second half of the album. ‘Normal’ is slow-paced, laid back and staccato heavy, and ‘Kodachrome’, a cover of legend Paul Simon, is well executed and is the band showing their influences quite literally on their collective sleeve.
The album closes with the shoegaze of ‘White Shoes (Reprise)’, a track that’s little more than a closing calmer. Overall, One Of My Kind is a great album. Whilst it is quite top heavy, with the alternating vocals towards the end being somewhat disconcerting, it is a show of how talented Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band are, given that this collection of b-sides and random tracks contains some of the best songs penned by Oberst, and may be the strongest country album of this year.