On his latest solo effort, Conor Oberst isn’t angry anymore.

He’s evolved from an angsty 13-year-old – who recorded to a tape – to a mature, accomplished, and precocious talent, self-assured in his own songwriting ability. On Upside Down Mountain, Oberst returns to the country-tinged folk of the Nebraskan’s first solo release, along with some roots-inspired elements and a wider array of instruments.

There’s grandiose, instrumental moments, such as the screeching, heavy guitar on ‘Zigzagging Toward The Light’, and the jaunty piano on ‘Governor’s Ball’. Backing vocals provided by Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit across the album also brilliantly complement the artist’s raw voice.

On Upside Down Mountain, the songwriter covers a wide range of issues and emotions in unique prose and subtle complexities. During ‘Time Forgot’, he questions his own sanity (“I’ll never know if I’m delusional / I just believe that I am not”), and explores a father’s relationship with his son on the beautifully sentimental ‘You Are Your Mother’s Child’.

Despite flirting with a bigger sound, it’s still the moments when it’s all stripped away that truly stand out, leaving the 34-year-old alone to pour his heart out over the top of subtle acoustic guitar.

‘Common Knowledge’ is the singer at his best, with his now-trademark faltering, vulnerable vocals weaving together a harrowing and brutally human story about the decline of a “washed-up, bitter, broken” man who was once his friend. It’s a song that easily holds its own alongside Oberst’s best work as Bright Eyes, and one that more than proves he still has a knack for writing complex, challenging and thought-provoking songs.

On Upside Down Mountain, Oberst displays exactly what sets him apart from virtually all other musicians at the moment, further proving why he’s one of the most important artists around today.

Listen to ‘Hundred Of Ways’ from Upside Down Mountain:

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