Words by Amanda Remling

Space, reptiles, and super universes. The first two minutes of Bright Eyes seventh studio album The People’s Key will have you thinking you’ve been drugged and are tripping listening to a crazy man’s rambling. The ramblings on the first song “Firewall,” soon fade into a haunting melody and you’re immediately hit with Conor Oberst’s soothing voice.

It’s been four years since band founder and singer-songwriter Conor Oberst has released music under Bright Eyes, but with this new album they seem to have never missed a beat. Taking time off to release music as Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Oberst has returned with a more focused and ear-pleasing sound with the help of permanent Bright Eyes member Mike Mogis, who produced and helped engineer the album. The former folksy trio and random ensemble has taken a turn from their country like roots to gather a more eerie rock sound.

The 10-song track list doesn’t contain a single displeasing song. Starting off strong with the mind-bending “Firewall,” the listener is swept into “Shell Games” which features a delicate piano, strong guitar and drums, and typical bellyaching Bright Eyes lyrics we’ve all come to love (“Distorted facts I could never cope. My private life is an inside joke. No one will explain it to me”). “Jejune Stars” will be a track favorite with more upbeat lyrics, crazy guitar, and kick ass drums. The piano makes another appearance in “Ladder Song,” a soft and moody lullaby that is a nice contrast to the bolder guitar ridden songs on the album. And no worries…you’ll find more of the crazy man ramblings littered throughout.

Starting off strong and continuing through the rest of the album, The People’s Key is definitely an album to get lost listening to. It took 13 years, but Oberst has finally created what he had in mind when Bright Eyes began in 1998. No one can now compare his vocals to the “unintelligible babbling of a child” like Allmusic did with the release of Bright Eyes first album, “A Collection of Songs”. The People’s Key is hands down the best album Bright Eyes has released thus far, and hopefully not the last like some rumors have claimed.

Bright Eyes
“The People’s Key”
Saddle Creek Records
© February 15th, 2011



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