Bright Eyes – The People’s key

Ending a legacy that spans over a decade is a tough thing to do, and I’m sure Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nate Walcott all agree. The People’s Key is the supposed swansong for the moniker of Bright Eyes, and perhaps isn’t the greatest conclusion to one of the key catalysts in the emotive indie-folk movement.

Gone are the days of a youth whose angst, paranoia, and self-hatred radiated from Oberst’s music. Instead we are left with an album that seems like it’s going through the motions, or a man that has packed up his office a day early. Compared to earlier efforts, it’s inarticulate in places, and references to Rastafarianism and other religious facets are detrimental to the overall feel of the album. As are the oddly included crazy ramblings of a Texan musician they met on the road. But it’s not all doom and gloom, if the creator’s previous work was unknown to you, you’d say it’s a good album, mostly.

Once you get passed the seven-minute opener, which includes almost three minutes of a redneck’s nonsensical bullshit, we instantly get a sense of what musical direction is on the cards. Shell Games, opens with some uplifting keys and vocals, before switching to a synth-soaked pop song, so indicative of the rest of the album. Oberst stated in interviews prior to The People’s Keys’ release that the band would be moving away from the sounds of rootsy Americana. And for the most part they have, as sparkling electric guitars, synthesizers, mellotrons, and even some robotic vocals have replaced all folk sounds.

Jejune Stars shows Oberst’s desire to go out with a bang. A high tempo pop affair that includes some machine gun like drumming, bobbling guitar, and glossy synthesizers, all the bubbliness a good pop song requires. The same can be said for Haile Selassie whose marching riff confirms the album as Bright Eyes most rock-based effort yet.

The People’s Key is comparable to a lot of Oberst’s more recent workings, the real difference, synths from country sounds aside, is in his writing. Where in earlier albums such as Lifted or I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, the front man seemed to focus on his own emotions – this one feels impersonal. The one exception is Ladder Song. Written at the time of a friend’s suicide, it’s possibly one of Bright Eyes finest moments. A piano ballad, doused in gloom, and infinite sadness, the grief can really be felt from his grave, gripping voice, it’s sure to make saltwater well in your eyes.