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Bright Eyes - The People's Key

Erin Donaldson delves into Bright Eyes' latest studio album.

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Scoff all you want, but the Bright Eyes album Fevers and Mirrors stole my heart at 13 in a way that no other album ever will. I basically built a shrine to it, only to grow up and watch Conor Oberst make mediocre country music. Alas, like a heartbroken schoolgirl attempting to reignite an old flame, I approached the final Bright Eyes album with caution. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to discover a matured return to their melancholy roots. The People's Key meshes the best qualities of each of Oberst's past projects into something that fans and foes alike can appreciate.

The People's Key is essentially the sequel to Fevers and Mirrors. Fevers and Mirrors was the tale of a self-deprecating adolescent boy trying to escape the shackles of suburbia, and The People's Key is the memoir he shares after his return from sabbatical. He sings of loneliness and a lack of unconditional love and criticizes the futile search for spiritual guidance. It seems his quest for self-realization has left him empty-handed, only craving the love and simplicity of the home he was once so eager to get away from. In this regard, The People's Key is Oberst's own apology for being such a smug, pretentious teenager.

What is most impressive about the album, though, is its stylistic maturity. Predictable crooning over acoustic guitar has been replaced with rich peddle-steel guitar and catchy pop rock. Though his recent ventures into country music lacked creativity and seemed a bit forced, his work alongside other established musicians appears to have been a valuable learning experience. Bright Eyes has thus far been engaged with Oberst's youth, and now with The People's Key we finally watch him grow up.

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