The word “community” means a something different to everybody. Some people see a community as a team committed to the unification of like-minded individuals. Others view a community as a support mechanism meant to encourage a broad sense of happiness through structured loyalty and encouragement. Others still define a community as a governing body dedicated to the regulation of thought leadership, subsequently outlining what is right and wrong within a designated precinct. Whatever your definition of a community is, Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst want you to join their’s in search of association-based betterment and self-satisfaction. Their unorthodox name “Better Oblivion Community Center” is as off-center as a pseudonym gets, but what better way to match their community members’ eccentric likeness than through a title just as a playfully outlandish.

If you feel like this collaboration came out of nowhere, you aren’t alone. The story of Better Oblivion Community Center unfolded out of complete nothingness with virtually no warning. Starting December 14th, 2018, ambiguous social posts, brochures, park benches, and more cryptic advertising sources started directing drifting masses towards some sort of enigmatic social group. These ads repeated paraphrased self-help messages, promoting services like assisted self-care, chosen family therapy, dry ice meditation, free human empathy screening, sacred crystal implanting and removal, pineal gland expression, and more. Finally, they asked that potential patrons contact them at the following hotline: (785) 433-5534. Don’t be afraid to call it – the number simply plays a recorded message endorsing the Community Center’s value proposition as well as a teaser into the group’s upcoming North American and European tour.

The extremely quick and unexpected release of their self-titled album only a month later tied the puzzling story together. All these mysterious messages of an unidentifiable public refuge were the genius campaigns of their marketing teams inciting a viral social conversation. It may still seem perplexing to some, but their messaging post-release comes off as much sweeter, more whimsical, and lighthearted. Take the group’s personal description on their website for example, which reads:

“We welcome you to experience a healing sound bath…Let the vibrations wash you clean, realigning and resonating in your journey toward serene healing and true bliss.  Come together with fellow Community Center members Conor and Phoebe to celebrate the common path toward ultimate relaxation.  More news on Chosen Family Therapy forthcoming.”

In terms of individual social identity, both Bridgers and Oberst still sound despondent and alone. But in terms of their identity as Better Oblivion Community Center, Bridgers and Oberst sound like they found psychological liberation in each other’s company. They yell about predetermination on “Dylan Thomas”, grieve their helplessness on “Didn’t Know What I Was in For”, and break down familiar uneasiness on “My City”, yet they sound comfortable and unrestrained when they harmonize as a single unit. They know the world will continue to beat down their warn emotions as long as they publicly expose their creative expression, but their best bet in combating that adversity is to find strength in numbers. After all, the most freeing product that Bridgers and Oberst can offer is a musical organization of mental adjacency. They truly are a community, and at the heart of any community is a group meant to keep each other from being alone.

Favorite Tracks: Sleepwalkin’, Dylan Thomas, Didn’t Know What I Was In For, My City, Forest Lawn