Bright Eyes
The People's Key


3.0
good

Review

by Adam Thomas STAFF
February 19th, 2011 | 56 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: And this is how it ends

In a way I feel bad for Conor Oberst. Sure, he's been a music press darling since he was a teenager and just about every aspiring hipster girl has had the hots for him, but due to the limitless openness of his songwriting, it's as if there are hundreds of thousands of people that have purchased not only one of his albums, but a portrait of his soul. We, as music fans, have watched him grow from a timid, melodramatic little brat, to a drugged out and politicized young man locked in an existential crisis, and now with the release of his seventh album under the Bright Eyes moniker, and first since splitting to form the Mystic Valley Band, Conor Oberst is finally content with not only who he is, but his place in the world as well.

Now while this is good for Oberst, it has both its positives and negatives when it comes to his music. The unnervingly personal and explicit stories of introspective angst that so many people that are now in their early twenties came of age listening to and expect from Oberst we're lost in this transition. He still gives folks a glimpse of his inner workings, as can be seen in lines like, “My private life is an inside joke, and no one will explain it to me,” but such insights are now few and far between. The People's Key walks a razor's edge, split between the musings of a man opening his eyes and peering outward for the first time in his 31 years and the same scared kid was trying to learn how to make himself feel better. Unfortunately he's still having growing pains, as while this split perspective offers a new look at Oberst's state of mind, the new age imagery can come off as a bit hokey and empty at times. It's not that any of it is bad or without merit, but without the catharsis that he built his name on it just seems as if something is missing, and that something is Oberst himself.

Like the lyrical aspect of The People's Key the music itself is a work in flux. Eschewing the countrified folk sounds that he has built a reputation on since 2003's Lifted... the sound on The People's Key is rooted in electronics. True, this is not the first time that Oberst has dabbled with synth heavy music as his 2005 release Digital Ash in a Digital Urn was an entirely electronic affair, but The People's Key manages to sound more organic than Oberst's first attempt. The vintage tones used by long time Bright Eyes keyboardist and collaborator Nate Walcott provide a vibrant backdrop for Oberst's wordplay and are the heart of The People's Key. It makes the songs seem like a well worn throwback given the indie community's current infatuation with the harsher side of electronic music.

If taking the statements made by Conor Oberst at face value, it looks as though The People's Key will be the final chapter in the Bright Eyes saga, as Oberst has hinted at retiring the moniker over the past few years. Unfortunately, The People's Key, while enjoyable, never comes together as it should, but if there is any consolation, the album's last track “One For You, One For Me” is the perfect culmination of every aspect of Oberst's career, mixing stunning instrumentals with the brimming insight and personality that has defined him since he released Fevers & Mirrors at the age of 18. It is a more than fitting closing to a what has been one of the more enjoyable constants in the indie music scene over the last decade. If only the rest of the album lived up to it.



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user ratings (331)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
vanderb0b
February 19th 2011


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review, though I like this a bit more than you. Shell Games among the best of Bright Eyes' happier songs.

mallen-
February 19th 2011


1235 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Conor's s/t solo album is the best thing he's ever done. This has been growing on me though.

Digging: Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were

klap
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2011


10583 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

booo

Digging: Charli XCX - Sucker

Athom
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2011


17231 Comments


the three indie albums i was most hyped for this year (this, the decemberists, and iron and wine) all left me feeling flat.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2011


7321 Comments


The People's Key walks a razors edge

Make the word "razors" possessive, maybe?

Great review though. I particularly enjoyed the poise of the opening paragraph, and learned lots from it. And I feel sorry for poor ol' Redsky =(

Knott-
Emeritus
February 19th 2011


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Thank you.

Knott-
Emeritus
February 19th 2011


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Also first line of this review = first line of mine for Wide Awake dunno if that was deliberate and i doubt it but it made me smile ha

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2011


16922 Comments


agree 100% with this review

Digging: Low Roar - 0

iFghtffyrdmns
February 19th 2011


7047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great read, I'll get around to checking this eventually. I have a feeling I might feel the same about it as you.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2011


17231 Comments


the music is cool(although not particularly grabbing), its just that lyrically theres not much that resonates with me

Hep Kat
February 19th 2011


15399 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooriiiiiiiiiiiiiing album

Digging: Burning Kitchen - Many Wonder About the Meaning of Life

Athom
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2011


17231 Comments


lol nice dig

AtavanHalen
February 19th 2011


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wow, really thought this would be getting a stronger reception.

This is a great album, much better than Cassadaga.

kanecooper
February 19th 2011


630 Comments


it's just so boring

Athom
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2011


17231 Comments


cassadaga was great.

AtavanHalen
February 20th 2011


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It was good, not great, in my books

klap
Staff Reviewer
February 21st 2011


10583 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

cassadaga is my favorite bright eyes how terrible i am. love this too tho

AtavanHalen
February 21st 2011


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mine is either Lifted or Wide Awake

Probably Wide Awake

ericksonnat
February 23rd 2011


10 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album felt a bit forced for me. It doesn't have flow, if you will, of their earlier works. Lifted is by far the best album Bright Eyes has created.

Knott-
Emeritus
February 24th 2011


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

nobody will ever cry to any of these songs



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