Conor Oberst, the folkie boy-child from Omaha, started putting out his own indie records at 13, so he was a weathered vet by the time he made this Gram Parsons-inspired gem. Oberst sounds youthfully self-absorbed and all the better for it, with acoustic guitars, earnest poetry and harmonies from Emmylou Harris herself. "Lua" is a heart-shredding love song about a doomed girl whose heart is too heavy for him to lift. But he vows to try anyway, and the melody gives him — and us — some badly needed strength.
• Rolling Stone's 2009 Review