The Singles Party: Conor Oberst, ‘Kick’

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Conor Oberst is at it again. The man known for his work in Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk, Desaparecidos and of course, his own solo career is gearing up for the release of his new album Upside Down Mountain on May 20 by releasing some cuts off said record. One of those is the song entitled “Kick” which The Singles Party crew examined for this week.

Kelly O’Dowd: I think I’m too old to appreciate Conor Oberst. There are only a handful of Bright Eyes songs that I can tolerate and enjoy; the rest just never did it for me. The same thing here. It doesn’t sound any different from the Bright Eyes I was introduced to when I was in college. The same voice, the same phrasing. Although, here, the subject matter is more interesting and not so emo like “Lover I Don’t Have to Love.” I can respect the song and songwriter, but Oberst doesn’t ring my bell. However, that guitar riff at the beginning is pretty cool. Verdict: One and Done

Lisa Pikaard: Okay so first of all, can someone please tell Conor Oberst what decade this is? I feel like this song belongs decades ago, not now. I like the throwback vibe from time to time but “Kick” just isn’t the right track for me. The beat of the song is fun; the guitar and drums are the highlights for me. There is also is no denying that Oberst’s a great storyteller. “Kick” really highlights that ability but the vocals do not wow me or even impress me in the slightest. I felt like he comes across as being very blasé rather than passionate about the song. Where are the emotions? If the vocals were stronger or more well-rounded and polished, I’d be in. I like the female background vocals but Oberst falls short. I’m out. Verdict: One and done.

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Lauren Stern: Conor Oberst said that he went back to his old roots with his new album Upside Down Mountain it certainly doesn’t feel that way with “Kick.” This song sounds like something straight up off of Bright Eye’s last album The People’s Key, which is not that far back in Oberst’s discography. Since I liked “The People’s Key,” I really liked “Kick.” But it didn’t take me back to Oberst/Bright Eyes circa late 90s/early 00s as much as other songs off of his new album did. Verdict: Add to Playlist

Nick Porcaro: Whoa.

I’m not exactly a fan of Conor Oberst fan, so imagine my surprise when I hit play on “Kick” and received a real delight of a tune! This single blends quietly deft chord melodies, Conor’s typically reserved vocal style, a killer chorus melody, concerned-sounding singing from an unidentified female, gorgeous slide guitar accompaniment, ’80s synth pads, fuzzy riffs, a dash of Edge-style guitar echoes…

Amazingly enough, all the disparate elements mesh together beautifully to accentuate Conor’s deft songwriting acumen. “Kick” serves up an ode to Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, and the lyrics note the heavy burden of carrying that name while bouncing through history to document the storied ups and downs of Camelot. Conor’s language is direct and his imagery vivid, driving the point home with some excellent closing lines:

“Kick, you know this life is rich
But pleasure’s not the same as happiness
But if you don’t collide with the traffic in your mind
I think you’ll find your way out of this
I hope you’ll find your way out of this”

I can’t overemphasize how well-constructed “Kick” is. Looks like it’s time for me to give Mr. Oberst another chance. Verdict: Add to playlist.

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Jason Stives: Conor Oberst has made quite the living off his down trodden indie musings. His trembling vocals and melancholy yet hopeful lyrics made him an darling over the past decade but for me his best stuff was when he used his own namesake like he did on 2009’s Outer South. Oberst has said in interviews that “Kick” is a return to an earlier form of writing for him that combines his way with poetry with personally satisfying melodies and that does indeed prove true here. The track despite being named after Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy also has quite a kick to start; that jolt of a moment that starts the song and keeps the listener awake over his signature quiver.

The guitar riff is complete fuzz logic that swerves and rattles well against this historical exploration of what one would assume is the hard times of growing up a rich Kennedy. There is also a Caribbean flair to the number which seems to be a pattern on the already released tracks from his latest record Upside Down Mountain. It’s definitely a nice start to what I hope will be another fine release from one of the last decade’s most prominent musicians. Verdict: Add to the Playlist

Bill Bodkin: I was so annoyed when I heard we were covering Conor Oberst this week. In college, Bright Eyes was this band that confronted me at every turn and I absolutely loathed every song they ever did. Call it growing it up, call it expanding my musical horizons, but I dug this song. It’s got this Shins meets Elvis Costello feel to it. It’s somewhat breezy but still lyrically intriguing — it’s the type of a song you might hear in Wes Anderson movie trailer. I definitely dig this one, particularly to add for any summertime playlist. Verdict: Add to the playlist.

Final Verdict: We dig it! There’s some definite criticisms you should heed before diving in head first on this song, but overall we’re confident to say this track is playlist worthy.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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