By Stephen Burton
It appears as if though Conor Oberst has grown up, taken a look around outside, and decided to pretend that we are living in 1972. The plus side of all of this is that Oberst, frontman and creator of Bright Eyes, has finally made a statement with his music. Working with bandmates Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, along with a number of guest musicians, Oberst crafts a decent six-song EP in Four Winds.
The EP begins with the title track, which doubles as the first single from the upcoming full-length Cassadaga. This song, a proclamation on the end of the world, is not only the finest on the EP, but may well be Oberst’s best to date. Taking some of the country rock leanings of previous Bright Eyes releases and running with them, “Four Winds” is as effective a generational anthem as Oberst could hope to write. The other songs fall short, but still show promise for the upcoming album. “Smoke Without Fire” essentially lifts its vocal melody from Bright Eyes’ own “Laura Laurent”, but gets a boost from guest vocalist M. Ward. The band ventures into rock territory with “Stray Dog Freedom”, showcasing a blues influence and a willingness to play some guitar solos. “Reinvent The Wheel” and “Cartoon Blues” also lean towards a rock sound, while closer “Tourist Trap”, another highlight of the release, is a slow acoustic number with lazy piano and pedal steel flourishes throughout.
Conor Oberst has yet to make the great musical statement of 2007, but Four Winds gives listeners a peek at what’s to come, and provides Bright Eyes fans with enough high quality material to keep them tuning in.