A lot can happen in four years. People finish high school and college. Presidents finish terms.
Conor Oberst made another Bright Eyes album.
“The People’s Key” — the latest from Oberst and bandmates Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott — will be released Tuesday on Saddle Creek Records.
The band’s last release was “Cassadaga” in 2007. While Bright Eyes remained silent, Oberst wasn’t. Over that time, he made two solo albums and another with Monsters of Folk.
The Omahan is widely known and highly-regarded for his songwriting skill. Rolling Stone named him the songwriter of the year in 2008, and referred to him as the new Bob Dylan before that.
Thankfully, Oberst says, the Dylan moniker has mostly worn off.
“Thank God that’s over, right? I went right from wünderkind to washed up. Old. Been around too long. That’s just the way I feel. That’s my internal dialogue,” Oberst said to New Yorker magazine.
In interviews, he’s mentioned his desire to move away from the Americana and countryish twang featured on “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” and other albums.
His new direction is apparent on “The People’s Key.” The record has more electric guitar and its keyboards make it sound more pop than folk.
“To me, this is not an 80s record, but that’s definitely the palette of sounds we’re drawing from,” Oberst told the New Yorker. “If there’s a criticism of ‘Cassadaga’ that I agreed with, it’s that we left things in the oven too long, that songs were overstuffed, with too many ideas competing for space.”
One of the things throwing a lot of people off is the presence of a man rambling throughout the album on all sorts of topics.
His name? Denny Brewer.
Brewer’s a musician whose albums have been released on Oberst’s record label, Team Love. Oberst decided to include Brewer’s ideas, some pretty strange, on the record.
“A lot of people would write him off as a conspiracy-theory crazy person,” Oberst told Rolling Stone. “But then he’d turn a corner and hit on a point that was completely truthful.”
So far, “The People’s Key” has been met with pretty favorable reviews. The biggest endorsement came from NPR’s Robin Hilton.
“This is the best record Bright Eyes has ever made. In fact, it’s the best record the band’s frontman, Conor Oberst, has ever been a part of,” the review said. “‘The People’s Key’ is a career-defining work of art.”
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