Conor Oberst, Conor Oberst
Official Release Date: August 5
The Verdict: When it was announced that, for his latest album, Oberst would be ditching the Bright Eyes moniker — the one under which he's released his last ten records — it wasn't immediately clear why. Now it is, though. Last year's Cassadaga stripped back the vocal tics, false starts, and charmingly overreaching ambition for a political album that sounded polished but wasn't all that memorable. Conor Oberst feels no less grown-up, but the songs are looser, catchier, and more fun, even if they are all introspective, death-obsessed folk-rock ballads. (Highlights: "Sausalito" walks an excellent line between Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead, and "Danny Callahan" manages to be a good time, despite its being about fatal cancer.) Hey, if we could make an album this great, we'd probably want to put our own name on it too.