Cassadaga is a community for spiritualists in central Florida, with over 100 psychics in residence. It is one stop on the rambling journey through America that Conor Oberst recounts on this sprawling album. He visits the town to “commune with the dead” as he sings in “Four Winds.” The band, now featuring three permanent members along with a parade of prominent guest stars, has made their most mature album to date.
Oberst was exhausted after a two year whirlwind in which he was a part of the Vote for Change tour, and released two acclaimed albums. After taking some time to renew his spirit, he made producer Mike Mogis and trumpet and piano player Nate Walcott permanent members of Bright Eyes, as if to take some of the spotlight off himself. Together they have created some fascinating musical settings for Oberst’s brilliant lyrics.
Cassadaga is an album about America, its history, and our apparent failure to learn from it. The theme is laid out in the opening track, “Clairaudients (Kill Or Be Killed)”: “Future Markets, Holy Wars/Been tried ten thousand times before/If you think God is keeping score, Hooray!”
Though the album is steeped in apocalyptic imagery and at times takes some very dark turns, it is not without hope that somehow love will save us all, as in “Make A Plan to Love Me”: “When you are young the world is a Ferris wheel/I know we will grow old it is lovely, still/Make a plan to love me sometime soon.”
“If The Brakeman Turns My Way” is the track I’ve returned to several times, but there is much to be discovered with repeated listening throughout.