Emotions are all too easy to get immersed and trapped within, even if it’s possible to be self-aware about this occurrence. In fact, perhaps it can feel just as damaging to understand that you have self-involved and that you should be glad for the life you have, even if it feels lacklustre.
In Salutations, Conor Oberst creates a sound that remains the same throughout, even as it fluctuates. Different feelings are expressed, but a dull state flattens out life’s experiences with violins and harmonicas and Oberst’s monotone vocals.
Oberst begins the record by trying to pull himself out of this with ‘Too Late to Fixate’ as he tries (and ultimately, fails) to distract himself by obsessing in someone else’s life.
Often, when we find ourselves in these loops, the company we keep exacerbates it. ‘Overdue’ reflects this, a tale of friends who are fed up with the melancholy contrivances of their lives. Of course, sometimes these spells have their roots in events that kicked off this despair. ‘Next of Kin’ may be where the listener receives an explanation. It’s told initially in the third-person, of what happens when a spouse dies. It then turns into a first-person narrative, filled with symbolism of lighters than won’t light reflecting a sense of powerlessness.
The album picks up with ‘Napalm.’ Guitar riffs abound underlining tales of being drunkenly misplaced in a town filled with boredom. Ultimately, this album is about trying to get by – while tragic instances are mentioned, it’s the day-to-day that Oberst is concerned with. Returning to using alcohol to escape from dread, ‘Barbary Coast (Later)’ is about the questionable goal of wanting to get drunk later.
Those who feel lost often need to find someone who will show them how to find a path, but what happens after you have followed this person? ‘You All Loved Him Once’ is about a religious leader that guided these people when their future was unclear, but they soon grew to hate him. As in ‘Overdue,’ it shows that the people we surround ourselves with can be reflections of our mental states.
The closing song, ‘Salutations,’ is the closest thing this record can offer to a solution to finding comfort in others without wanting to affect them negatively: “I want to hold you until the world ends/But we just can’t get attached.” Everyone can experience spells of emotionality, and maybe it’s better to separate the ones you love from this.