New Music Tuesday: 'The People's Key' by Bright Eyes
The People’s Key
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Conor Oberst didn’t need to return to the band that made him famous; after all, he’s been making successful albums both alone and with his indie supergroup Monsters of Folk since Bright Eyes took a hiatus in 2007. But boy, is it a good thing he did.
Bright Eyes’s new album, “The People’s Key,” is the band’s catchiest, most ambitious and best album yet. It picks up right where the last album, 2007’s lukewarm “Cassadaga,” should have.
The album begins, ends and is interspersed with dialogue recorded by Danny Brewer, guitarist for the band Refried Icecream and personal friend of Oberst. From the opening “There were chariots of fire that came into the sky that these beings got out of, and they walked like a man but they had reptilian features” to “You go back to love again; love, compassion and — what do you call it? Mercy.” as the album’s final words, Brewer serves as a sort of cosmic, maundering narrator for this excellent release.
Instead of focusing on the simplistic country-folk style that has dominated much of Oberst’s recent work, the song writing has returned to more ambitious and conceptual lyrics, the best and last of which were seen on 2005’s “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.” Despite this, infectious pop melodies and rhythms prevail, like on the first single “Shell Games” and the grungy foot-tapper “Triple Spiral.”
In true Bright Eyes form, the album certainly has its fair share of somewhat maudlin anthems, like the final song, “One for You, One for Me.” But as Oberst has grown more mature, he has also grown out of the almost embarrassingly despondent lyrics that characterized his earlier work. He is now wiser, and this has had a positive impact on the song writing.
“The People’s Key” is a must-have for any fan of Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk or modern indie-rock in general. I’m willing to bet it will be a contender for one of the best albums of the year.