The People's Key is a somewhat bipolar album. On the one hand it features some gutsy experimentation. On the other, it contains some of Bright Eyes most conventional and predictable work.
The album is bookended by "Firewall" and "One For You, One For Me", tracks that begin and end with spoken word rants. These religious/philosophically charged pieces could easily have been lifted from the last Shooter Jennings record. Unfortunately, the spoken word component grows tiresome quickly, and ends up overshadowing otherwise solid rhythms and mesmerizing percussive effects.
The lead single, "Shell Games", appears like a typical Bright Eyes track at first, but it morphs into something special with a fairly heavy synth line and a strong hook. "Jejune Stars" has a very faint flamenco rhythm to it.
A track like "Approximate Sunlight" on the other hand, falls completely flat. The plodding pace and lack of destination render it completely forgettable, much like "Beginner's Mind". While "Haile Selassie" has potential, it's hollow production does it no favours.
Not all of the conventional-sounding songs fail however. "Triple Spiral", for example, is one heck of a catchy rocker. The gentle sway in the sombre personal piano number "Ladder Song" makes it a recommended listen as well.
Despite having its moments, I can't help but come away from The People's Key with a sense of disappointment. It's not a terrible album by any stretch of the imagination. I expected something that I could declare was an album of the year contender, and that didn't happen.
Bright Eyes play the Sound Academy in Toronto on March 13th.
Best tracks: "One For You, One For Me", "Shell Games"
Track listing for The People's Key:
- Shell Games
- Jejune Stars
- Approximated Sunlight
- Haile Selassie
- A Machine Spiritual (In the People's Key)
- Triple Spiral
- Beginner's Mind
- Ladder Song
- One For You, One For Me
6.5/10Bright Eyes' website