Bright Eyes alum Conor Oberst has released a half-dozen solo LPs in the past, but almost all featured contributions from other musicians and collaborators. With Ruminations, we have a very literal solo record on our hands – not only did Oberst record and produce the record on his own, he also wrote it, sang it, played piano, played guitar and played harmonica.
The isolation, which came after a cancelled Desaparecidos tour, resonates through every open end and empty space which fills Ruminations‘ runtime. It’s an album of self-reflection, of damning honesty and of blunt portrayals of the person that Oberst has become. “I met Lou Reed and Patti Smith,” he sings on Next of Kin, before dropping the sting in the tail: “It didn’t make me feel different/I guess I lost all my innocence/Way too long ago.” The barebones arrangements accentuate every last line – handy, given the album contains arguably Oberst’s best set of lyrics since 2005’s I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. This monster of folk has made a monster of a folk album – certainly one of the best of his career.
By David James Young