The People's Key
Author: Kat Muscat
2/23/11 | Wirelessbollinger.com | www.wirelessbollinger.com | Record Review
On The People's Key Conor Oberst has left much of the Americana sound of Cassadaga behind, instead capitalising on the many strengths of Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil Keep Your Ear To The Ground and I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. It's a welcome stylistic return for fans of the earlier albums, yet there is an experimentalism bent to The People's Key that ensures Oberst's progression. It's hard to miss this intent when TPK opens with the wandering 'sermonettes' of Dennie Brewer, a Texan muso that Oberst met on the road. These sermons litter the album and combined with the disco-pop and hard rock flourishes that colour Bright Eyes' more traditional folk fare, the album's mystic vibe, a theme that was established on Cassadaga, thankfully differentiates itself. Exactly how all this links into the album as a whole is impossible to grasp on short exposure, but in time Brewer's interjections bring complexity and a narrative feel to TPK.Despite these new elements, you'll still know it's Oberst in Bright Eyes mode. There's his distinct lyrical meter, which balances narrative and expression in a way matched by few contemporaries. He's still not afraid of exploring weighty issues too, 'Approximate Sunlight' is an anthem of disenfranchisement in a relationship and the world at large, while 'Triple Spiral' energetically explores existentialism. Hopelessness and optimism co-exist without contradiction, and the flexibility in Oberst's voice gives an appropriate edge to both emotions -- and the grey that surrounds them. If that's all a bit too abstract, there's the direct observation and coy wordplay that balances the heart-on-sleeve moments. 'Shell Games' is an especially rich trove: "My private life is an inside joke!/ No-one will explain it to me" pairing pathos and humour effortlessly. There is less introspection in this album as The People's Key reaches out for solutions that require many pairs of hands. The fevered tales of isolation have largely given way to a different kind of insight and honesty. This approach balances the complexities of maturity while losing none of the potency of the . Never one to talk down to his auidence, Oberst skillfully weaves in the gems of his sprawlling wisdom and wounderings without becoming preachy - a humility that almost paradoxically lends authority to all his music. Like recent albums before it, The People's Key encourages, even demands, repeat listens. Thankfully there's enough within it to warrant such attention.