The People's Key
Author: Dan DeLuca
2/17/11 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | www.post-gazette.com | Record Review
"I take some comfort in knowing the wave has crested," Conor Oberst sings in "Haile Selassie," a Rasta-flavored "One Love"-style exaltation, a typically finely crafted soul-folk rumination on "The People's Key." "Knowing I don't have to be an exception."Mr. Oberst, who makes up Bright Eyes along with instrumentalists Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, turns 31 this week, and he has been marked as a songwriting wunderkind since he was a teenager."The People's Key" is the first Bright Eyes album since 1997 (although, in the interim, Mr. Oberst has released two albums under his own name, plus one with Monsters of Folk). For the most part, Mr. Oberst sounds relieved of generation-spokesman pressure and happy to get down to the business of writing excellent songs. And there are a bunch on the musically varied "The People's Key," from the refreshing, rocked-out, and riffy "Shell Game" to the spiritual-sustenance-seeking, piano-tinkling philosophizer "Ladder Song."This CD gets taken down a half a star for the spoken ramblings of mystically minded cowboy and Mr. Oberst pal Randy Brewer, which pop up on three occasions to waste everybody's time.