Bright Eyes: The People's Key

It's hard for me to tell if my love for Cassadaga and Fevers and Mirrors has been surpassed by that of The People's Key.  It's close.  Musically, I think this is the most advanced Bright Eyes album of all time.  I love simple Bright Eyes, in the vein of "Lua" and "Drunk Kid Catholic",  but this is a very nice new sound.

Most of this album made me literally dance in my seat, something extremely new and oddly refreshing.  It is quite obvious main songwriter Conor Oberst has grown up a bit since we've last heard from him on Cassadaga, and this album seems to complete the spiritual transition he began to make with songs like "Cleanse Song" in 2007.  Either way, The People's Key is pretty.

Beautifully-crafted lyrics and passionate vocals, as per usual.  Brilliant storytelling, and surprisingly, a driving rhythm section.  Most of this album is fast-paced fun, with lyrics both sentimental and revolutionary as icing on the cake.  The best way I can describe it is a cross between Cassadaga and Digital Ash In a Digital Urn.  And simply lovely.

Watch the newly-released video for "Shell Games" and read a track-by-track analysis after the jump.


Firewall begins in traditional Bright Eyes fashion, blurred speech and odd social messages, Conor Oberst's way of warding off "casual listeners".  And then, about 3 minutes in begins a beautiful musical journey.
"on all fours, she's just so insistent, fills my mind with jump ropes and slit wrists, bust through the firewall into heaven"

Shell Games is an incredibly catchy song.  Simple chorus, and lots of synth.
"here it comes, that heavy love, you're never gonna move it alone, here it comes that heavy love, tattooed on a criminal's arm"

Jejune Stars starts with a punch-in-the-face kind of beautiful noise.  It alternates between really pretty choruses, and loud and intense drum beats.
"see that sunny day we snuck down, hid under the bleachers, kissed as the band marched, everything fell into line"

Approximate Sunlight sounds like a sad black and white film looks, circa 1942.  Dramatic, somber, and delicate.  Could very easily turn into one of my all time favorites.
"the quinceañera  dress she bought was unstitched, with bullets"

Haile Selassie  leads me to the typical Oberst stereotype:  he sounds like Bob Dylan.  I don't always think he does, but this song give me a very Dylan-esque feel.  With a modern twist, of course.  I really like this one.  Reminds me a lot of "If the Brakeman Turns my Way".
"what if this leads to ruin?  you've got a soul, use it"

A Machine Spiritual (In the People's Key), is the most lyrically intelligent, in my opinion.  Although pretty much every Bright Eyes song can read like a lovely story, this one is particularly interesting.
"that voice you heard, well every head's a different world, where mine is concerned, i boarded up the windows, a catatonic plateau, a backwards, black-faced minstrel show"  

Triple Spiral is the closest to psychedelic rock that Bright Eyes will probably ever get.  It's almost campy-feeling.  Really makes me want to dance.  The last seven seconds absolutely make this song.
"i loved you triple spiral - father son and ghost,  but you left me in my  darkest hour when i needed you"

Beginner's Mind  instantly sounded like the Beatles to me.  Poppy, fun, lighthearted with kicking choruses.  A simple little song.
"a cocktail napkin epitaph, a psychobabble telegram, message written in the sand, the tide rolls in"

Ladder Song is heartbreakingly beautiful.  Oberst works his magic and storytelling overall takes over this song.  Probably the softest and most stereotypical "Bright Eyes" song on the album.  Pretty piano.  Conor Oberst's voice sounds muffled and simple.  One of those really magical-feeling songs.
"gotta get to the center, gotta get to the concert, run off with a dancer, gonna celebrate..."

One For You, One For Me  ultimately speaks unity...a blend of fast rhythms, driving riffs, and passionate lyrics.  My favorite track on the album, hands down.  Fast forward to 4:30 if you want to hear something really pretty.  A true grand finale.
"now that we've come so far away from us, now that we've come too far to say, you and me. you and me.  that is an awful lie"