As long as Conor Oberst doesn’t put out another unreleased/bsides album whatever he does will be brilliant. It’s hard for me to criticize this album subjectively. It’s not Fever’s And Mirrors, it’s not Lifted, and it’s definitely not even close to I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning. But if you look at it as just another way for Conor Oberst to not pigeonhole himself and not try to recreate something that was already perfect The People’s Key is a solid album. The only lacking aspect is the lyrical depth that has made it easy in the past to say that Conor is the best songwriter of our generation. Honestly the more I listen to the album i’d say there’s been some residual effect from working with M.Ward on the Monsters of Folk album. which easily could be taken as a compliment. Before I say anything else it is important that I point out the fact that if any other artist had put out The People’s Key it could easily be career defining for them so I’m only being critical in comparison to other Bright Eyes albums.
If anything I’d say this album is a more developed version of Casadaga. Each song fits perfectly into any mix, yet it’s slightly a let down. The kind of let down I still listen to constantly. The truth is I think Conor has reached a point creatively where he no longer either can, or chooses not to, write songs that are deeply personal to him. He’s writing songs rather than letting them write themselves autobiographically, and who can blame him really. Yeah it’s easy to see the praise that has been thrown his way from people he’ll never meet but he’s been ran under the bus by so many that seem to have been at one point close to him (ie Tim kasher and every other mediocre Nebraska native) who expected him to create their careers for them rather than putting in the work themselves (no offense to Tim Kasher, he’s great at what he does… when he’s not being jealous). Saddle Creek is still the best indie label out, and Bright Eyes is still one of the best indie bands out there. If i had to guess, and most likely i’ll be wrong about this, the next album will be more of the same, and then we’ll get another glimpse of greatness.
And as I’m typing this I can clearly see how this album has come to fruition since his Mystic Valley album actually was a great indie/acoustic album and it barely received a yawn from critics and fans. The power lies in the moniker, i think if he can relax and realize that although he may be trying to shake this child like image by doing all the other projects using his own name, the lack of pretension when performing pretentious songs are kind of what was so amazing about the whole Bright Eyes thing. The bottom line is really that this is in fact a great album, not so much creative, but unexpected. And if we step back and take the artist out of the equation The People’s Key really is a nice piece of art.