The People's Key
2/16/11 | Ign.com | www.ign.com | Record Review
Connor Oberst's band makes a musical shift on their latest album, while retaining the infatuation with all things mystical they found on 2007's gorgeous Cassadaga. Bright Eyes strip away most of the folk they have been known for, striking out for a more rock focused sound that lightly pulls in touches of the electronic hiss of 2005's experimental Digital Ash In A Digital Urn . Fluttering synth and itchy riffs shoot back and forth on the cheery "Haile Selassie", exploring the idea of spirituality making the thought of death more comforting. Moody, beat-fuelled "Approximate Sunlight" finds Oberst singing, "There you go again, on that circular trip / Lick the solarplex of some LA shaman", sounding normal in comparison to some of what you find on the album; blending Rastafarianism and sci-fi for a fascinating, albeit at times strange, listen."Firewall" opens the album with a southern man proclaiming, "If there is no such thing as time, then you're already there", before continuing to explain reptilian babies evolving into humans, spirits rising from the ground, alternate dimensions and the origins of Hitler before the lightly flickering guitar creeps in and Oberst's itchy, scarred vocals breeze in. The mysterious haze of the song, complete with funky organ and lap steel breezing in near the conclusion, make for a pretty, though confusing, listen that seems to fit its odd introduction. The uncomfortably confident, wild-eyed bits between songs leave you feeling as though you either need to strap on your tin-foil helmet tighter, or call your dealer for something a little weaker. Still, the spoken word moments work hand in hand with the electronic blend of rock and folk to craft a wonderfully mesmerizing mood.Burly punk infused rocker "Triple Spiral" finds Oberst's aching vocals holding their own in a more lively setting, fitting just as well as he does the on the haunting introspective "Ladder Song" or the fractured melody of "Beginner's Mind". Piano rocker "Shell Games", ripe with whiny synth melody and strutting guitar, explores the need for the whole world to work together, "Here it come, that heavy love / You're never gonna move it alone", a sentiment echoed on the tranquil, blipping "One For You, One For Me". They handle the transition to full-on rock band with ease, selling you completely on the concept on the cathartic "Jejune Stars", where a flurry of thrashing punk riffs close the hook and plucky stepping riffs roll through the verses over Oberst's more awakened, passionately defiant, "I go umbrella under arm / Into the green on the radar". In the end, The People's Key proves to be a satisfying piece to the Bright Eyes puzzle.