Album Review – Bright Eyes: The People’s Key


After the release of 2007s ‘Cassadaga’ the Bright Eyes moniker has been on somewhat of a hiatus while front man and wunderkind Conor Oberst explored other projects including a solo record, a project with the Mystic Valley Band and supergroup Monsters of Folk which included Bright Eyes alum Mike Mogis, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and frequent collaborator M. Ward.

Oberst really steps away from his folky and alternative country roots and explores a much more rounded, full band sound and even comes back with the use of synths that was featured so prominently on ‘Digital Ash in a Digital Urn’. Admittedly the anticipation for ‘The People’s Key’ has really outweighed the music the opener ‘Firewall’ has a long monologue which is somewhat usual for Bright Eyes (At the Bottom of Everything, Claraudience respectively) but it really seems to drone relentlessly for seven minutes without actually going anywhere.

‘A Machine Spiritual (in the People’s Key)’ lacks the intimacy that made Oberst so famous. It also, can be an overbearing in its pantheistic message. ‘Shell Games’ is probably Oberst at his most jubilant its hard not to hear Patrick Wolf woven in the chorus and the instrumentation another good moment comes from ‘Ladder Song’ a heart wrenching lament about a friend close to Oberst who killed themself. In addition to that his political tendencies as well as the emotional fragility that made him everyone’s favourite sad kid with a guitar, it can be both nostalgic and angsty while still being philosophical and universal.

If The People’s Key is indeed the last release under the Bright Eyes name, they have gone out on a low, which is disappointing, it’s definitely not their crowning glory though it has some great moments, it also has some lazy, almost thoughtless ones too.


Best Tracks: Shell Games, Jejune Stars, Approximate Sunlight, Beginners Mind, Ladder Song


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