Conor Oberst has done it again. Outer South is comparable to a musical version of The Catcher in the Rye. Oberst explores a coming of age through brotherly love accompanied by Taylor Hollingsworth on the guitar, Nik Freitas on the guitar, Macey Taylor on bass, Nate Walcott on keys and trumpet, and Jason Boesel on drums. He has abandoned the whimpering yelps and melodramatic howls so indicative of his Bright Eyes days and ventured towards a more country-twanged resonance. Though his voice has matured, his lyrics are still redolent of themes of alienation, political frustration, and relationships beset to go south of the border and sound as if they are scribbled by a shaky pen into a red-skinned Moleskine journal.

Oberst wrote Outer South while on his first tour with the Mystic Valley Band for the album Conor Oberst. Songs are reminiscent of boys out West, drinking whiskey and observing the landscape with a scrutinizing eye. Oberst combines communal vibes with pensive bliss and momentous rhythms that accentuate his poet- potential. His lyrics are akin to a westernized Hemingway, eloquent yet subdued, revealing yet camouflaged. While several of the 16 tracks border on mediocrity, the majority of songs that are keepers, “All the Lights in the Window,” “Slowly, So Slowly,” “White Shoes,” overshadow any point in which Oberst may become arduous. Prolific lyrics combined with symphony stabs and organ squeals allow him to venture upon a plateau that he has not stepped on to before. His footprints in the dusty sand are new and well-appreciated, and his immigration towards a mature folk sound is not infringed upon by a barbed-wire fence. Oberst and his hooligans know how to pull a record off. (Merge Records) –Eliza K. Johnston