The People's Key
Author: Kevin Coffey
2/14/11 | Omaha World Herald | www.omaha.com | Record Review
"The People's Key" has been months in the making.Not the music. The artwork.Sure, the tracks on the album took awhile to record and mix, but the album artwork went through quite a process as well.Zack Nipper, a graphic designer for Saddle Creek Records, created the fiery art for the album.Nipper's last artistic effort for Bright Eyes, the art for "Cassadaga," earned him a Grammy Award for best recording package.When it comes time to release a Bright Eyes album, Conor Oberst typically comes to Nipper with an idea or two and Nipper is left to make some designs."Conor wanted it to be a wall of fire on the front and back. He wanted it to have a strong, iconic impact," Nipper said.Nipper started with the package for the vinyl release. Regular photographs of the artwork make it look flat, but the package is actually a tri-fold album sleeve. Also, the image was printed on iridescent foil to make the flames feel more alive.The package as well as inserts contain references to lyrics on the album, including "Firewall," a cenote (an underground cave containing water) and purple lights in the jungle.The CD version of the album looks almost exactly like the vinyl copy, just smaller.Some copies of the CD are simpler because higher-than-expected sales forced the label to rush to print extra copies without the fancy packaging.When Nipper started the artwork, the folks at Saddle Creek thought "The People's Key" might be the last album from Bright Eyes ? Oberst now says it probably won't be ? so Nipper went with a simpler, "old school" approach, similar to older Bright Eyes albums he designed, he said."I tried a couple different things, like paint, but nothing really looked good," Nipper said. "I'm not a painter."He settled on making the "wall of fire" by cutting out the flames piece by piece from colored paper with a surgical scalpel and gluing them to a giant art board. He estimates there were a few hundred different pieces of the fire.He spent hundreds of hours over several weeks to create the six panels for the album as well as the CD booklet, vinyl album insert and the cover for a 7-inch vinyl single.