Conor Oberst has long been considered one of the more mysterious and enigmatic auteurs of independent music, dating back to his breakthrough records at the turn of the millennium.He has, however, recently suffered one of the most challenging periods of his professional and personal life, and what has resulted is perhaps the most intimate, candid collection of songs of his career so far.

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He later sings, “I don’t want to seem needy to anyone, especially you”, and we assume he is talking to us (his commentary on the relationship between himself and his fans is another recurring motif on this album).

There are tracks where Oberst withdraws back into his more customary arms-length, storytelling mode – the Frank Lloyd Wright paean Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch), and the politically fuelled A Little Uncanny – but the lasting impression of Ruminations is of an artist that has forced himself to take a break from the showbiz circus, and reconnect with himself.

As is the case with so many great lyricists, Oberst tends not to get sufficient credit in this regard, and certainly a track like Til St Dymphna Kicks Us Out will lock into your subconscious as much as any classic pop tune.

It is, however, on the track Counting Sheep that the greatest impact is made.

On a similar note, The Rain Follows the Plow closes with the line, “I know where I belong”.

The album is notable too for its sparse, uncomplicated arrangements, consisting of merely piano, acoustic guitar, Oberst’s naked voice and liberal use of harmonica.

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