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“I’m scared of silence.” This area in the singer-songwriter’s Omaha, Nebraska, home is known to Oberst and his wife, Corina Escamilla Figueroa, and their two roommates as “the fun room.” And it appears well lived in, with its empty cans of Busch Light scattered around the space, black shag carpet, boho furniture (there’s a vintage carousel horse in one corner), and assorted records dotting the floor.
“We hang out in here a lot,” Oberst says, reclaiming his spot on the couch, across from a stack of photos he’s been signing for fans who preorder his new album, “Have a good summer,” he’s written on one; “Sorry about everything,” on another.
And unlike Bridgers’ recent EP as one-third of the supergroup boygenius, these songs don’t seek collaboration as a means for full-throated emotional escapism.
“All this freedom just freaks me out,” he sings, sounding genuinely freaked out, in “My City.” The track ends with the album’s most primal vocal performance: a long note that the duo holds in unison before getting snuffed by a steady, clipped drumbeat.
In these songs, they push each other to write more in character.
The opening “Didn’t Know What I Was in For” is an imagistic story-song that spirals out from dreary contentedness.
Drawing a direct line to the shaky downer anthems that made Bright Eyes an influence for so many young artists—Bridgers included—these newer songs sounded exhaustive and raw, like there was a punchline at the very bottom of all his anxieties and he’d dig through them like a pile of dirty laundry to uncover it. Her songs, hushed and patient, often seek in-the-moment honesty over retrospective wisdom.
She’s equally adept at capturing an omnipresent fog of melancholy and the cosmic joke looming just outside our periphery.
Observing a friend who “says she cries at the news but doesn’t really” and eavesdropping on poolside conversations that start polite but “always sounds so cruel,” Bridgers implicates herself in a generational sense of helplessness: “I’ve never really done anything for anyone,” she sings over a mournfully strummed acoustic guitar.