Monday, February 14, 2011

Bright Eyes - The People's Key

Tomorrow Bright Eyes will release their 7th studio album, The People's Key. I'll admit, when I first heard A Collection of Songs... over a decade ago I would have never guessed they would make it this far. Since then, Conor Oberst has built quite a following with his ability to turn 3 minutes into a story. Lyrically, The People's Key is as good as it gets, which should be expected. However, it's the textures and production that make this their best album yet.

Many artists do not have the luxury to mature in today's declining industry. In fact, very few would be releasing a 7th album without ever producing a hit single. But with Saddle Creek Records, a label founded by Oberst and others, there has never been a demand for anything but good music. As you listen to the album, you can't help but notice elements from almost every previous release. All the comforts, the nuances that made songs unforgettable, they all find their way into a confident and mature record.

Continuing the tradition of opening with a narrative, we find ourselves listening to Denny Brewer as "Firewall" builds in the background. If Cassadaga was someone lost and looking for answers; The People's Key is the guiding light. It doesn't matter what you believe or who you think is in charge, everyone needs to hear that "love has always been the message".

For those of you looking for a folk record, it never appears. Well, maybe at the end. Instead the album in general is very upbeat using synthesizers to add energy and pop. "Jejune Stars" with the great line "Come fire, come water, come karma, we're all in transition" has a keyboard solo, something I cannot wait to see live. Look no further than "Triple Spiral" with clapping drums and busy keys for a glimpse at how far they've come.

"The Beginner's Mind" begins and ends with an acoustic guitar, working so well to show you the simplicity and bare bones of the album. "Ladder Song" is even more stark, a piano ballad reminiscent of "Breezy". Lastly, "One For You, One For Me" could easily be a hidden track from Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. The constant loop had me thinking of "Easy/Lucky/Free" and that's not a bad thing.

In all the interviews I read about this release, I kept hearing about "space" and leaving room "to breathe". How some albums had been "left too long in the oven" or might have been too monotonous. Very few bands with such an adoring fan base would even admit to such mistakes or go over critically acclaimed albums for errors. But these guys did and it pays off. Bright Eyes will play a SOLD OUT show at The Riv, March 15th.

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