Bright Eyes, “Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was” (Dead Oceans)
Considering Conor Oberst’s history as a poetically gifted sad boy and the sorrowful circumstances surrounding the first Bright Eyes album in nine years, it’s a wonder that this record is as upbeat as it is.
In addition to divorce, the new songs by the singer, who has once again teamed with Bright Eyes collaborators Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, are haunted by the loss of his brother Matt, who died in his sleep in 2016.
“Pageturner’s Rag” features Oberst’s mother speaking truths relevant to the times: “People need right now to feel they have something to look forward to. We have to hold on.” Oberst follows that with “Dance and Sing,” which, by his standards, is a party tune.
“Down in the Weeds” mixes private reflection and societal concern. It’s about battling depression and impending apocalypse. But this folk-rock music never gets too downcast. This album shows a resiliency and optimism that marks Oberst, 40, as one former wunderkind who still has a bright future.
dan deluca, Philadelphia Inquirer
Dua Lipa, “Club Future Nostalgia” (Warner )
On her new remix album, the English pop singer conjures memories of Madonna. The newcomer teamed with the Blessed Madonna, a DJ known for her soulful-brainy dance music, to rework the songs from her own excellent 2020 LP “Future Nostalgia.” Also Madonna herself appears in a fresh take on “Levitating,” one of several high-profile guest stars (Missy Elliott and Gwen Stefani).
Lipa’s record uses carefully designed pop tunes as raw material for a breathless new creation. Thought “Kiss and Make Up” was good as a throbbing collaboration with K-pop girl group Blackpink? Check out the women’s swaggering vocals laid over the indelible bass lick from Herb Alpert’s “Rise.” It’s a clever redo.
Lipa, 25, stands alone among her contemporaries as an artist whose music says little about her celebrity. She can get away with it because she’s a magnificent singer — and she has banging beats here.
• Keith Urban, “The Speed of Now Part 1”
• Neil Young, “The Times”
• Cults, “Host”