Better Oblivion Community Center: A Review

Article originally published in my school newspaper.

Better Oblivion Community Center. I know, I know. It sounds like a cult—but it’s actually in fact the name of an alternative folk-rock group. First advertised with admittedly eerie billboards, complete with mysteriously tweeted phone numbers and ominous bus stop ads, Better Oblivion rolled out to much fanfare among fans as we clamored for news of these beloved musicians finally officially collaborating. Comprised of the renowned Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes fame) and the folksy Phoebe Bridgers, these two artists may indeed have a cult-like fanbase, but also undeniably meld together in a way that can only be described as fitting of their prominence within the indie world. 

Conor Oberst’s band Bright Eyes has been known for its “downer anthems,” while Phoebe Bridgers’ jarringly raw wit and honesty result in an air of omnipresent melancholy. First collaborating on Bridgers’ “Would You Rather” on her first record, the two went on to tour together. Better Oblivion Community Center, the band’s self-titled debut album, is not a means of fusing to create more, but rather an ambling, introspective exploration of kindred souls. 

In a funny quirk, Bridgers had actually once idolized her now-bandmate Oberst as a teenager—the mutual appreciation of one another’s artistry manifests as this record makes evidence a deeper connection transcending musical generations. The juxtaposition of Oberst’s familiar, heartfeltly mournful voice with Bridgers’ softly confessional tone lingers in my head when I least expect it. When their lyrics convey emotions so clearly that no additional ornamentation is needed; the reflective, honest lyrics are backed by stripped-down instrumentals in one track and an out-of-this-world sound the next. 

 Better Oblivion’s music may not cater to the average listener, but for those with which it resonates, it reveals a shifting kaleidoscope of sensations: drifting down the highway in the middle of the night, being alone in a bustling crowd of people, puddles of sunlight from an idyllic day five summers ago, finally confess-screaming a secret you’ve never told anyone. What other band could transition from singing metaphors about plastic money and curing cancer into moodily pondering “how living’s just a promise I made”?