“This world is made of blinking lights

It’s changing all the time

But depending who you’re talking to

It’s likely to be fine

I watched you go from bad to worse

The blues is here to stay

Sometimes it’s the simple things that make it all OK”

—“Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out”


In a year of relentless chaos, where emotion has too often trumped logic and facts have been measured on a sliding scale of clouded fantasy, the nature of celebration has radically changed. Cathartic release is essential, and so is processing heavy emotion — something at which Omaha folk bard Conor Oberst excels. He headlines a New Year’s Eve show at the Lodge Room Sunday night.

Not unlike classic offerings from iconic rock songwriters like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Oberst’s album “Salutations” has been a companionable antidote to much of this year’s tumult. The hard-learned wisdom of tracks like “Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out,” “Rain Follows the Plough,” “Next of Kin” and John Lennon-inspired “You All Loved Him Once” reminds that there’s comfort in knowing you’re not alone — and sometimes that simple fact expressed with a sturdy melody is just enough to help you stumble through the dark hours until the next sunrise. Building on the 10 tracks comprising last year’s “Ruminations,” which were essentially vocal-and-piano demos Oberst made for his band, “Salutations” expands his original stark arrangements with drummer/co-producer Jim Keltner and the Felice Brothers, shuffling the original song sequence and adding seven more poetic compositions.

Not unlike Americana standard bearers Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Oberst has built a career over time that’s more about making relatable music than scaling charts or making the scene in industry centers. It may not make headlines, but it’s sustainable, and that affords him freedom to take unexpected left turns. Rooted since 2015 in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, after calling Manhattan home for over a decade, he’s toured with local songstress Phoebe Bridgers, M. Ward, and the Felice Brothers, whose instrumental shadings enrich the musicality of “Salutations.” Sunday he’ll be joined by his raucous Mystic Valley Band, which suggests he’ll reach deeper into his catalogue for older, more rocking songs that embrace life and inspire hope. n

Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band and MiWi La Lupa ring in the new year at the Lodge Room, 104 N. Avenue 56, Highland Park, on Sunday, Dec. 31; $56. Doors open 8 p.m. and $1 from each ticket sold goes to Planned Parenthood. Info: eventbrite.com/e/conor-oberst-and-the-mystic-valley-band-new-years-eve-lodge-room-highland-park-tickets-39413629226, lodgeroomhlp.com