Often times when sampling Bright Eyes albums, I find Conor Oberst simply too full of angst and misery. As a young female, I have never needed to indulge in music to find tortured, whiny boys trying to figure out what they want. To my surprise, I listened to this entire album straight through in what felt like minutes. I found it entrancing. With The People’s Key, I believe Bright Eyes is continuing a delightful progression of maturity in their work.
For die-hard fans that were initially drawn to Oberst’s raw emotion, this may be a disappointing evolution, but as musicians, I think it was inevitable that their music would begin to reflect a certain sophistication with age. You can only play the music of a heartbroken teenager for so long; this album is less confused. It’s as if they’re finally expressing a knowledge they hadn’t yet attained. The rhythms and melodies are rich and the lyrics are wise.
The album starts and ends in a captivating commentary questioning the origins of the universe and life. These science fiction tones are present throughout a lot of the album. In “Ladder Song,” Oberst sings, “welcome the new age/ covered in warrior paint/ lights from the jungle to the sky/ seen how a stars born/ looks like a blood orange/ don’t it just make you wanna cry/ precious friend of mine.” It is pensive lyrics like this that capture the substance that the band has developed with time.
Stylistically this is also a step for Bright Eyes. They have been faithful to their folk roots for years, and have made a movement away with this album, which sounds much more rock than their previous work. I even found myself tempted to dance to a track or two. Do not fear, The People’s Key will still meet your standards of dark inner-turmoil and depression, just maybe by less obnoxious and adolescent means.
LISTEN: “Shell Games”
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-½
Key Tracks: “Shell Games”, “Heile Salassie”, and “Ladder Song”.
Recommended if you like: Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, Rilo Kiley & Monsters of Folk.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!