Bright Eyes gets brighter

By Acacia DiCiaccio


It is a rare opportunity for fans to be able to track the emotional progression of a musician merely by listening to their discography. However, this is exactly what occurrs with Bright Eyes’s  lead singer Conor Oberst.

Looking back at his albums, one can track the songwriter’s emotional progression. While the first few Bright Eyes albums consist of Oberst’s typically introspective pondering and wailing, the theme of depression really culminates with the 2002 album, “Lifted, or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground,” with many tracks relating to feelings of worthlessness. In 2005, Bright Eyes released it’s most critically acclaimed album, “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning,” and continued demonstrating an all-surrounding sadness.

With the release of Bright Eyes’ previous album in 2007, “Cassadaga,” the music possessed a noticeably brighter, more upbeat sound to it. It appeared that Conor Oberst’s depression was finally lifting.

“The People’s Key,” released on February 15th, is another breath of fresh air for Bright Eyes fans as the theme of happier songs continues. However, it is not totally devoid of sadness, as a Bright Eyes album would not feel real without it.

With a science-fiction theme to the album, “The People’s Key” may at first appear to be an odd title. However, with a closer listen to the lyrics, Bright Eyes manages to stay true to the plight of the common man while still making references to Jules Verne. Oberst clearly understands the wonderment and tribulations of being a human being. He contrasts the idea of “The People’s Key” with the image of a huge arena with a machine pumping out sound, illustrating that he prefers what he considers to be an honest style of music.

The album begins with a somewhat-bizarre sample of a man stringing together ideas regarding aliens and Hitler. “The People’s Key” frequently experiments with samples. The album is broken up by spoken-word clips that sound like the rambling of drugged-up philosophers. By using these odd recordings, Oberst seems to be demonstrating that he no longer takes himself quite as seriously as he did during his previous angsty years.

Oberst had taken a hiatus from Bright Eyes between “Cassadaga” and “The People’s Key”. Perhaps this break from his most famous music project has given him the perspective he needed to create an album that both laments and rejoices in a way that reinvents Bright Eyes with a “universal elegance.” The song “Beginner’s Mind” perfectly illustrates the starting-over that Oberst has done again and again with his new projects, while ultimately nursing his inner child until it can burst into what has become “The People’s Key.”

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at [email protected].