For the last few years the word “EMO” has been tossed back and forth as a way of categorising the whiney voiced and emotional punk that was sobbing out of MP3 players across the world. Bands like My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday were the teary eyed poster boys for the boys kiss boys girls kiss girls generation that followed. EMO was a brand used to both explain, and to demean, but it wasn’t a new style, just a new name; Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes had been recording the exact thing under the guise of indie folk since 1995.
This year’s offering from the Nebraska threesome is “The People’s Key”; their seventh studio album and in my opinion their best release in quite a while, and with past singles like the Billboard topping “Lua” and “Take It Easy (Love Nothing)” that’s saying something. Perhaps the number seven really is lucky.
The album opens with the mystical voiced Danny Brewer raving, with ambient music playing in the background, about Scientology. The voiceover lasts for the opening two and a half minutes of the album and makes up the first third of track number one; “Firefly”. To be positive one must say that the speech is interesting and makes for an impressive beginning, but to be negative as well it should be mentioned that having to listen to it every time you play the song without the option of skipping is more than a little frustrating. Nonetheless once the music starts it becomes obvious that the album is going to be very good indeed. The track has all the ingredients of a perfect song; catchy, thought provoking vocals that charm the ears, steadily building and beautifully played music that’s easy to get into, and an explosive crescendo.
The good continues into track two as Conor once again proves himself as a gifted songwriter with lyrics so eclectic and well written that I would happily read them again and again should they be adapted into prose.
The title song of this piece “A Machine spiritual (In The People’s Key)” is another highlight with a dreamy, trancelike quality.
A lot can be said to compliment this album; one only has to listen to it once to want to listen again and again, but that isn’t to say that it’s perfect. Oberst’s voice doesn’t alter very much from song to song and being as many themes cross over between tracks it can be possible to drift off, and have the songs merge into one. I have even lost my place and been unsure of what track I was even listening to. Perhaps that’s a bad thing, or perhaps Bright Eyes are onto something that other bands should take note of.
Overall “The People’s Key” is a brilliant album and one I would highly recommend despite its problems; the echoing, velvet vocals and reverberating guitars drift perfectly together to form something that should be at home on everyone’s CD rack. Maybe if other “EMO” bands played like Bright Eyes people would stop complaining, and simply enjoy the music.
Originally published here: http://www.bn1magazine.co.uk/music/album-reviews/285-bright-eyes-the-peoples-key