New Music Tuesday: The People's Key by Bright Eyes

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I want to start this somewhat late (but still Tuesday) New Music Tuesday by saying that I've never really been into the folksy emo ballads of Bright Eyes. In fact, before today I had all of one song by Bright Eyes, and that was Four Winds off of the album Cassadaga, which I've been told is really quite good. Truth is, my preconceptions of the band turned me away before I gave poor Conor Oberst a decent chance. This is because, for reasons I'm beginning to believe are completely invalid, Oberst's band Bright Eyes was heralded as one of the go-to emo bands of the past decade, and, well, you know the negative connotations of emo music (though oddly, My Chem had that bad rap, but I've liked them since '06).

Well, I took a leap of faith and downloaded their new album at about 10am today, negative expectations still lingering and all, and you know what? Even after three or so full listens (and several listens to a few key songs) I remain genuinely impressed. After Four Winds, I jokingly began to refer to Bright Eyes as the most emo folk music ever written, but that's really not what The People's Key is. The People's Key is a mellow folk-inspired rock offering that comes from a deep place in Oberst's soul. I can understand how Oberst's lyrics could be labeled as "emo", but if they are then they are the good kind of emo, emotional, deep and meaningful words from Oberst to you.

Enough of the praise from being unexpectedly pleased, this is supposed to be a review, so I'll actually review the album now. For the past week or two, I've been listening to a lot of J-Pop (Don't look at me like that, it's really catchy, okay?!), so The People's Key proved to be my mellow rock break from the hyper energy of the mostly girly J-Pop. While the album caught me off guard by shattering my expectations of the band, that doesn't mean it's free of bad parts. The songs, which are all pretty good, are broken at times with these strange sound bites of a really hard to understand guy randomly talking about God, evolution, nature, and sound. None of these interludes make any sense whatsoever, and they really break up an otherwise great album. The most heinous instances of these nonsensical and, quite frankly, over-the-head and kinda pretentious interludes comes immediately after the track Jejune Stars, which is one of my favorites on the whole album, where that weird guy jumps in talking about pomegranates and how language is a frequency or some shit. It was very uncool, and even though I want to listen to that song repeatedly, it always gets to that part and I just wish it wasn't there at all. Almost all these bits seem out of place, and I think the album would be better without them. In fact, I've just skipped the first track of the album to avoid it. But that may just be me, maybe I'm missing the point. I'm sure these bits are there to send an important message that coincides with the music, but I don't get it or really care to.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me assure you that the music is really, really good. Like I said, there isn't a bad song on the album, not really, even though I don't really like track 4 very much it still isn't bad, it just isn't as good as other tracks. The music is a well paced and pleasant mix of pop-rock with some folksy undertones at times. Lyrically, however, is where Oberst really shines. The lyrics are catchy, clever, and that great blend of personal but still relate-able. Now, I understand that I'm probably overselling this here, and it's probably pretty clear at this point that I'm going to recommend the album, but good news! Saddle Creek Records, Bright Eyes' label, has two of the songs off of the album available for free download here, so you can judge for yourself! Go ahead, it's free, so what do you have to lose? Also, one of those songs, Shell Games, is in my top three favorite songs on the album, alongside Jejune Stars and the Ladder Song (which is my number one favorite song on the album).

Sadly, there are no official videos on YouTube from the band on the album, so that link is about all I can give you as a sample. But those are free, and if you feel like an additional sample is worth a dollar, I highly recommend the Ladder Song as a download off iTunes or something if those other two don't quite sell you.

1 comment :

  1. Random conversations can totally work sometimes. Like the rambling voicemail message from Ben's dad on "Your Most Valuable Possession". Of course, the random responses on Dark Side of the Moon really set the bar for this kind of production technique.


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