Album Review: Conor Oberst “Ruminations” Is A Folksy Look Into Mental Distress

Conor Oberst Ruminations is folk wisdom at its best. This musical genre has always had a spiritual back-bone with its songs aimed at looking at the beauty of the mundane. Whether it be driving through fields of windmills or drinking a beer alone at a bar, folk music is all about analyzing the vast emotions that clash with the simplicity of life, to which Oberst is a master at doing. In Ruminations, Oberst encapsulates the mental distress of being human when you think there is something better or else you can be. 
Ruminations is one of the best titles a man has chosen in association with his record because ruminating is Oberst’s thematic approach to music. You may be asking what are ruminations or what is ruminating? Rumination is a psychology term for the constant thinking of a problem rather than a solution. It is when you incessantly think about the negativity of a matter in your mind, which leads to stress and depression. Throughout Oberst’s album, you hear the inner darkness that he is mentally mulling over and over again. You feel the gaping sadness developing within him as he mars himself with insecurities and doubts over his own competency. It eerie to hear someone so open and clear in their self-loathing, but that is what a rumination is: an untethered hate against yourself.

Conor Oberst has created a powerful record that left me both moved and daunted. While other musicians try to glamorize self- destruction through drugs, sex, and violence, Oberst shows the mental drain that goes with always seeing yourself as less than. Ruminations was one of the few records I have heard that both teaches and confronts you on how boring worrying can be, which may not seem like a common word associated with worry or with what an artist’s wish for things you will  discover through his music. Yet, the genius of Oberst is in his humanity, and his willingness to share that being human can be a humdrum experience when you are continuously feel like a failure. A failure in your relationships, a failure to your dreams, and a failure to the better “you” that never gets a chance to show itself. Lyrically, Ruminations feels so naked and tender that you will wonder whether you should be getting so personal with a song.

Tracks like “Barbary Coast” or “Counting Sheep” struck me so deeply, as Oberst sings on his growing desire to be “easy”. Easy in his approach to life and its issues. Easy towards his loved ones, whom he fears are starting to find him emotionally needy. Easy in how he is able to fall asleep for once without feeling a rush of anxious thoughts telling him he is insufficient. I was shocked by the crude deprecation ruminating through his songs/ mind. There were moments when I was teary-eyed had hearing the guitar driven melodies of melancholy he had mustered. In songs like,  “A Little Uncanny” and “You All Loved Him Once”, Oberst uses the harmonica to drive the heart-wrenching discussions on the changing tides of love people can have towards a person. Throughout each song, Oberst’s voice is straight-toned with a subtle quake of brokenness like, an earthly plate moving out of place. It is natural and sourly stunning because, for however admirable Oberst is for tapping into hurt, like with all folk music, you walk away quietly sullen that “hurt” even exists.

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Did I love this album? Yes. Yet, more importantly, I needed it, as you will too. We all need an outlet in our life, where we can pull down the walls, take off the mask, and say “This whole life thing can really suck”. You may laugh at my statement, but Ruminations is an ode to the exhaustion that builds in our minds when we beat ourselves up, internally, while giving a happy face, externally. I guarantee that there are songs that will make you cry with how earnest they are in showing you how much clutter carried in your mind. Moreover, in learning that ruminations are not the way to feel mentally relieved, Oberst has given you the opportunity to change. I was dumb-founded by how well Oberst has realized, through music, the downsides of mental distress.  For More Information On Conor Oberst or to Buy Rumination on October 14 Click Here.