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The Critics Corner: Albums
The People's Key
Bright Eyes | The People's Key
Iconic indie alt outfit goes into an alt-rock spin on tenth release
Name: The People's Key
Label: Saddle Creek/Warner Music Group
Release Date: February 15, 2011
Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Review written by: Stacie Sullivan

It’s been nearly four years since the release of Cassadaga in 2007.  Fans of Bright Eyes and Conor Oberst have anticipated the release of their upcoming album The People’s Key for a long time now.  With so much time in between the two releases, it’s hard to know just exactly what to expect.  Four years is a huge gap to allow for change, and change is exactly what Bright Eyes did with the new release.  The People’s Key moves away from the folk sound to become more modern and rock sounding.  Some may say change is bad, however change can also be good.  Good is a word that simply won’t do the album justice.  

With the new sound, it’s hard to say how fans will react.  Some may love the change while other’s may want the old Bright Eyes back.  Before placing any judgement on the album, everyone should give it a fighting chance.  The People’s Key is an album that you’ll either love right off the bat, or grow to love.  

The People’s Key starts out with the song “Firewall,”  which opens with a voice over as many other songs do on previous Bright Eyes albums.  The voice over sets up the album as if it was going to tell a story. The song then progresses into a slow, dark sounding song that becomes slightly more upbeat as it goes.  “Firewall” is a perfect song to introduce the album and it’s new sound.  

With songs like “Shell Games”  on the album, it’s hard not love.  It has a very new  and fun sound to it.  It’s upbeat and catches the listeners attention immediately.  The song is definitely a favorite on the album.  “Shell Games” is a real foot tapper, that’s for sure.  Songs like “Haile Salassie, ”“Jejune Star” and “Triple Spiral” show off the band’s new rock sound opening with strong electric guitar parts.

Just because the album’s overall sound has changed, that does not mean that Bright Eyes has forgotten their roots.  The album slows down with the song “Approximate Sunlight,”  which shows off the band’s older roots.  There’s a voice over mid song, like many of Bright Eye’s songs has on previous albums.  “A Machine Spiritual (In The People’s Key)”  is another song that shows off Bright Eyes roots with a more folky sound.  “Beginners End” is a song with a more acoustic feel to it, however it doesn’t completely ignore the new rock sound of the album.  

“Ladder Song” is unique with the use of a piano.  It’s one of the slower songs on the album, but definitely not one of the weaker ones.  The piano makes the song have a pretty sound to it and gives it the feel of a ballad.  The People’s Key closes with the song “One For You, One For Me” which also has a unique sound to it.  It’s the perfect song to close the album with, because it’s catchy, repetitive, and different.  It’s a song that will get stuck in your head and leave a lasting impression on the listener.  “One For You, One For Me” ends with the same voice over as the first song started with, which creates the album into a story.  

Bright Eyes proves with this album that they are a band to not be forgotten.  With the new sound, the band will be able to reach a broader audience and expand their fan base.  The world will be seeing a lot more of Bright Eyes in the near future.  Be sure to catch them on their headlining tour this spring in support of their new release, The People’s Key.
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