The Vinyl Shrine #1: Cassadaga

Posts by Alex

Hello everyone and welcome to the new and improved music series, The Vinyl Shrine!

I mentioned in the past that I didn’t want to force myself to write about obscure music all the time because a lot of what many would call “mainstream music” is too good to not share with you all! So we’re going to try out a new format for a while and see how it goes. Now, in order to keep the options open I’m not only going to feature albums I own on vinyl. They may crop up fairly often, but instead I want to try and make this a place where I could discuss my ideal collection. In that way, it may be more like a wish list than anything. This will be a space where I discuss albums that I would like to put in my collection some day if I don’t own it already. Let’s get started!

Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
Do I Own The Vinyl Yet: No
What Makes It Shrine Material: The production is 100% flawless. I once listened to this in a basement studio on recording headphones and studio monitors just to pick apart all the attention to detail in this album. The composition is top notch and Conor Oberst’s lyrics are, as always, superb.
Best Lyric: “All this automatic writing I have tried to understand, From a psychedelic angel who was tugging on my hand, It’s an infinite coincidence but it doesn’t form a plan”

This album may or may not be the reason that I decided to change up this series. It’s a bit more popular than some of the other albums I’ve written about, if only because it was made by Bright Eyes, a very popular band at the time of this album’s release. Unfortunately, because of the enormous success of the I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning album directly before this one, there was no way that Cassadaga was ever going to win commercially. Nobody ever likes the sequel, no matter how much they want it.

To me however, Cassadaga might just be my favorite album. It is by far the best Bright Eyes release in my opinion, although all the fans seem to hate it. I’ve said before that this would be my “desert island” record. There is just so much here to dig in to. I pull this album out and play it for a week straight once or twice a year. Every time I do, it’s almost brand new again. Revisiting this album every few months, I can always find something I never noticed before. It may be some nuance in the string composition of “Make a Plan to Love Me”, or the way Conor’s voice feeds back when he sings the word “feedback” in “Middleman”. This album is just full of little goodies in the way it is produced.

The flow of the album is great as well. Anyone who is familiar with other Bright Eyes works will expect this album to open with a weird story or ambient track, and they’d be right. “Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)” opens with an odd phone conversation about spirits and energy set over eerie feedback noises before dying off to a quiet intro track that then gives way to more chaos at the end. “Four Winds” is a great way to truly kick off the album after the “prologue” track. The album progresses with perfectly timed ups and downs. The climax of each track is timed perfectly to create a greater composition.

The album finishes with the longer upbeat “I Must Belong Somewhere”, another song that conforms to the winning Bright Eyes formula of ending an album on a long, wordy repetitive track. This all sounds bad, but when I say long, wordy, and repetitive, I mean this is where Conor writes his poetry and the band adds its flavor. After this big piece we’re treated to what I’d call an “epilogue” for the album. “Lime Tree” is, oddly enough, one of my favorite parts of this album. It’s incredibly quiet, lyrically great, and atmospherically riveting. At first listen it will probably sound like a nothing track, but once you put headphones on and dig in, the dynamic shifts and quiet melodies will have you straining your ears to pick out every detail.

Definitely give this one a listen. As I said, it’s a huge contender for my favorite album of all time and in my opinion, Bright Eyes’ and Conor Oberst’s greatest work.

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By Jess

A bookworm since the tender age of whenever I stopped chewing on books and started actually reading them. A cat-mom, graphic designer, and introvert originally from Pittsburgh, but now resides in the humid, hot, state of Texas. Cheers!

  • I've always heard good things about Bright Eyes. I think now is the time to give them a try! Thank you for the suggestion. I usually get stuck on one album at a time. For the past 6 months it was The 1975. Then Walk The Moon's new album came out and I'm dying over it! My Music Maven did a wrap up of her 10 albums of 2014 and The Kooks was #2 and I cannot stop listening to that. I just got all their back records and am down the rabbit hole! Happy music monday! xx

  • Alex

    Sounds like you have a ton of material to dig in to! I definitely recommend checking out Cassadaga when you have time (it should be on Spotify). There is just so much depth to it that it could keep you busy for quite some time!

  • You've talked me into giving the album a listen that's for sure! Thanks:-)

  • Love that you're doing a little more obscure album reviews! Music discovery is such a wonderful thing.
    I've tried to get into Bright Eyes with some of the older albums. The music itself is fantastic, I just could never quite get myself used to Conor Oberst's voice. (I know that might be blasphemous to say..) I am going to try taking a listen to this one!

  • I love Bright Eyes! I bought a record player a few months ago, but I only have a handful of vinyls. This sounds like the perfect album to add to my collection. I haven't listened to any of it yet!

  • Alex

    I can understand that. His voice is simultaneously the most annoying and most charming thing about his music. It's characteristic, it's how you know it's his music. But on the other hand, he definitely can't sing and I think that's probably the number one reason people are turned off by his music. Although I think they way that his lyrics sometimes border spoken word adds some depth to the emotions of a song.

  • Alex

    I haven't gotten my hands on the vinyl yet either, but it's definitely high up on my wish list!

  • annagain

    I'm ready to give them a listen now! Great post. (I'm so glad Jessica shared your link in the #NYNB group.)

  • Kate Powajbo-Owens

    Conor Oberst even knows that he can't sing. To quote his song "Road to Joy" from the album I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning:

    "I could have been a famous singer if I had someone else's voice, but failures always sounded better…"

    Bright Eyes is an acquired taste. It took me several listens before I could even begin to sort of enjoy them. But now I consider Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst to be in my top 5 favorite musicians of all time.