(Saddle Creek/Team Love)
Ryan Adams wasn’t the only shaggy-haired, hard-drinking prolific songwriter of 2005 — Conor Oberst squeaked his third record of the year in just under the wire. After the staggering two-punch of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn — both released on January 26, 2005 — and months spent playing each around the world, you’d think Omaha’s prodigal son would lay low for awhile, and he’s said he will this year, but not before dropping a proper live record. Impeccably recorded — crowd noise is sparse, except for the opening round of applause in which a girl shrieks “I love you Conor!” Culled from a tour that spanned North America, Europe and Japan with Rilo Kiley and REM, Motion Sickness is mostly comprised of tracks from I’m Wide Awake — the opener “At the Bottom of Everything” plays the same role here, and “Road to Joy,” “Old Soul Song” and an Emmylou-less “We Are Nowhere and it’s Now” also make appearances. Captured at the height of Oberst’s anti-Bush tear, he throws in “Make War” from Lifted and a scathing rendition of the song he debuted on Leno as an emo cowboy, “When the President Talks to God” (“Does he ever smell his own bullshit? I doubt it!” ). B-side-style highlights include “True Blue” (from the “Lua” single), a gorgeous solo performance of “Southern State” (“Are you who you say you are? The fact that we can’t tell makes us like you even more”) and two covers: Feist’s “Mushaboom” (meh) and Elliott Smith’s “The Biggest Lie.” It’s an apt closer for a boy wonder who spent a year questioning everything and offering these songs as glorious attempts at answers.