Bright Eyes – The People’s Key

Bright Eyes
The People’s Key
Saddle Creek

My friend Mike Law (yes that lovely man from New Idea Society) posted on a social network site that he had recently read a review that left him feeling a bit cold (this is paraphrase). He took objection to the review (not of his band) that seemed immediate in its reaction and full of personal prejudice. I understand his frustration, partly because I am the problem. This moment in time is a blog saturated wave of so-called music journalism, where shitheads like me are trying to be the most witty on the absolute newest releases before they are practically even out. I am further the problem because at the moment, I’m not really buying a lot of new releases. I have a problem with buying everything and well, I am as previously stated, desperately unemployed. So I am using my time and talents to listen to new albums under various methods of availability. None of which I would be smart to actually talk about. But the point is, music’s value is about a week old. Albums have no shelf life any longer. The market moves quick, if yr lucky enough to even sell music to people but that first week, that’s about all you get. No one talks about music past tense anymore, and past tense is last week.

I am in a quandary about what Mike said. I love music. I love to give it my time, but I really love to react to music on a visceral, immediate level. I do want to give it my attention, to understand it and to find the beauty in it, the nuance, the moments that make it special. Sometimes that is a lot easier to do than not. But, especially considering my non-employed status, I have a lot of free time and I like to utilize that time to write about music.

Currently, I am listening, for the first time, to the new Bright Eyes album. I am not giving it my full attention. That might be a problem. I’m not sure. My prejudice is, I want to like it. And the hints I am picking up is, that I will like elements of it. After Cassadega and the preceding Monsters of Folk and Solo albums from center piece Connor Oberst, I fell off the bandwagon. Cassadega was a big album, but it was hit or miss mostly. The Monsters of Folk and solo records just felt numb and boring to me. You don’t want the past to outweigh the present of any musician or artist, but sometimes even yr heroes drop music that you think stinks. The People’s Key feels like an attempt at a return to form. Right now I am digging on “Approximate Sunlight” which feels and sounds like it could have come from the Digital Ash, Digital Urn days. This pleases me greatly as that is my favorite album from Oberst.

In fact, what I have heard so far, I am pretty struck by the return to form. The album opens with an extended sample of speech, once again accentuated by a light melody before exploding all over the listener. It’s an old trick, but it’s one that Oberst continues to do particularly well. Further, the album thus far has a lot more depth and emotion musically. It’s more dynamic than a lot of the music that has come out since Cassadega. The internet has been hit with “Halie Selassie” which at first seems a bit reserved, but the song opens up into something more playful and open. It retains parts of the very structured music that Oberst has previously performed, but somehow, in some way, Oberst feels young again.

Everything I’ve already read to at this point (pro tip: never read other people’s reviews before you write your own) has talked about “The Ladder Song”. So I skipped forward to this, the second to last track on the album. It’s a piano ballad, and a sad sounding one at that. There is no doubt this is Bright Eyes most emotional song in a long time, despite a phrase that reminds me of Tom Petty. But maybe it’s just the weariness of the whole thing. Writing songs about friends killing themselves can probably seem like a chore when considering public consumption. All the crap nonsense bloggers such as this one talk about. Who cares what the critics have to say? I sure don’t. This song is pretty powerful. It restores my confidence.

Is The People’s Key everything I want it to be? I don’t know yet. I haven’t given it a chance. But the chords and songs that have penetrated my ears in the last twenty minutes or so of listening will keep me coming back for more. We, the fans, the critics, the enemies, we want and take so much from artists these days.  More than ever before. Gone are the days where any criticism can even be valid (I for one am looking forward to how much Pitchfork is going to suck on Thom Yorke’s cock on Monday) because it is immediate and carries even less value than the music in which it searches to discuss. I wish for the days when a Greil Marks, Hunter S. Thompson or Lester Bangs were spewing out educated dissection, random shit and venomous rants, when music was more personal, created by the lucky gods and their faults and betrayals meant as much as their triumphs and glories. Bright Eyes conquered a long time ago, and since then I have listened to hundreds of other albums. My ears, my brain, my thoughts and feels, who knows if they are even valid, less so since I invested nothing in the music this time (I deeply apologize, I feel terrible about this). But the immediate is what drives this whole experience for me. The impulses of knowing almost immediately whether something is worth my time, that’s what makes me tick. I responded to The People’s Key and my immediate response is, I don’t know what this record means, but I can’t wait to keep finding out.

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