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Album Review: Bright Eyes - The People's Key

After branching off to Mexico with the Mystic valley band as well as starting up the Monsters of Folk with alternative giant Jim James and folk deity M. Ward, Conor Oberst puts the final nail in the coffin to the Bright Eyes moniker with perhaps his loudest album. 'The People's Key' opens up, like every other Bright Eyes album, with a spoken word introduction, Denny Brewer of Refried Ice Cream presents some interesting concepts, painting out a picture of a sci-fi garden of eden with an ambient synth, creating a spectral atmosphere behind these concepts. When the guitar finally comes in, Conor presents to us the new sound of Bright Eyes a sound that has matured and fermented into the vague opening muddy guitar of 'Firewall'.

The first song released from this album, 'Shell Games', opens up with Conor Oberst crooning "Took the fireworks and the vanity the circuit board and the city streets shooting star, swaying palm tree laid it at the arbiter's feet", each line possibly referencing his previous albums and the entire song about his relationship with his musical career and how fame has possibly affected him from such a young age. After listening to the first 5 seconds of 'Jejune Stars', you may want to replace the skin on your ear drum. The song pretty much provides a new light for Bright Eyes music and may even hint at a possible Desaparecidos reunion in the future.

Mike Mogis' production on this album is perhaps some of his cleanest work, however, it is on the ambiguous 'Approximate Sunlight' where his production really flourishes. A simple kick drum and snare ring out through the entire song whilst Oberst's voice beckon's "Now you are how you were when you were real". The backing vocals in this song replicate a tribal chant and the use of sampling is incredibly new for Bright Eyes. 'Haile Selassie' is a tribute to the Ethiopian emperor and perceived messiah, in interviews, Conor has even stated that he was interested in creating a song influenced by reggae that wasn't a reggae song.

'Beginner's Mind' is the Conor that fans know and love, his angsty voice cracking and he even teases us in the opening bars as well as the closure of the song with an acoustic guitar delivering vast chords. Despite Conor only mildly flirting with the inclusion of a piano in his previous efforts like 'If The Brakeman Turns My Way' and 'Coyote Song', he finally lays the guitar to the side and sits on the piano stool. 'Ladder Song' is a piano ballad and the exclusion of any other instrumentation from this song in comparrison to the rest of the album only makes it that much more unique. As Oberts voice hauntingly reverberates "No one knows where the ladders goes, you're gonna lose what you love the most", the warm undertones of the diminished piano are reminiscent of a piano player in a concert hall.

The album ends on an optimistic note with 'One For You, One For Me' and is reminiscent in to the repetition that was found in 'Sunrise, Sunset' with each line presenting a character or group later being paralleled in the next line with the last line of each verse echoing "One for you and one for me". This song really suggests drawing a line in the sand and drifting away from someone, especially when Conor utters the words "you and me, you and me, that is an awful lie / it's I and I".


'The People's Key' by Bright Eyes is released on February 15th through Saddle Creek.

Official Website
Bright Eyes on MySpace.

George Gadd

Alter The Press!