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Better Oblivion Community Center | Better Oblivion Community Center

Conor Oberst & Phoebe Bridgers find better living through their chemistry.

Co-ed superduos seem to be all the rage these days. Over the past few years, we’ve had She And Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward), You+Me (Pink and Dallas Green), The Both (Ted Leo and Aimee Mann), The I Don’t Cares (Juliana Hatfield and Paul Westerberg), Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones (who couldn’t be bothered to come up with a handle beyond their first names) and probably a couple more that I’ve forgotten. Meet the newest dynamic duo: Better Oblivion Community Center, the amalgamation of indie-folk rock singer-songwriters Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers. They dropped their self-titled debut without warning this week. But given that their musical union has been much-rumoured since they joined forces on Bridgers’ 2017 ballad Would You Rather, the disc’s arrival wasn’t a total surprise. Though this is definitely one of those times when no surprise is the best surprise. Tender and intimate, potent and passionate, gritty and bleak, but most of all achingly beautiful, this 10-song creation — allegedly a loose concept album about a fictional facility — is a true meeting of musical minds. Oberst antes up his familiar shivery vocals and tense songcraft. Bridgers sees him and raises the stakes with her dustier, soothing delivery and more nuanced approach. Together, they spin tales of lost, desperate souls trying (and often failing) to hold it together in our unforgiving world. Underpinned by unvarnished, noisy and loosely wound acoustic rock and alt-folk, this is uneasy listening. But it’s also transfixing and evocative fare that amounts to more than the sum of its parts. And instantly and easily separates Better Oblivion Community Center from the rest of the superduo set.