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March 7, 2011 | by  | in Music |
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Bright Eyes – The People’s Key

Dear Conor,

So, I heard this is the last Bright Eyes album. I’m just writing to let you know that I feel I’ve often supported you when others have pushed you down. They say you’re whiney and emotional, maybe a bit annoying. I don’t think they’re wrong. I just think that you’re really good at it.

I know I haven’t listened to all of your albums. Some of them just didn’t stick. But my two favourites, Fevers and Mirrors and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, I’ve listened to them over and over. They’re beautiful. You have a knack for melody, and for constructing music that brings it to the front; it’s hard to tell what your lyrics are about sometimes but they wander by in a kind of sorry haze, and it’s very very nice. And also sad. Yes, quite sad. We’ve had some good times, and nothing that either of us can do will change that.

But I don’t know what you’ve gone and done here. People are saying that this album is different and they’re not wrong. This one guy is saying that it’s the best album that Bright Eyes has ever made. I’m pretty sure that guy actually is wrong. I sat down to listen to this thoroughly, on good speakers too, and I should tell you that this album is a bit of a mess.

It starts out with a long monologue about the lizard people, one of the wackier conspiracy theories, and these spoken word pieces (or ‘rants’) pop up throughout the album. The first track is all kind of wishy washy and a bit of experimental, but I went along with it. For a bit. Then, in the second track, ‘Shell Games’… there’s a dynamic build, kind of a bit chorally, quite good. And then this guitar roars in, and it sounds exactly like Queen.

And I like Queen. But I like Queen being Queen, and being a long time ago. I don’t like it when ghosts of band somehow possess other ones. This awful awful guitar sound just keeps popping up throughout the album and ruining perfectly good songs. There’s also some bad synth sounds, and some bad vocal effects. It’s like something went wrong when everyone was first sitting down and saying, ‘Hey, how about preset number 76 here? Oh no, wait, that sounds too much like some famous 80s glam rock band.’ Maybe this part got forgotten. Maybe some people like these sounds. Maybe drugs were involved. I don’t know.

A lot of the songs sound patchy too, all pieced together, like they’re not sure what they’re meant to be. It’s almost… upbeat, in some parts, but the vocals are still standardly maudlin and the lyrics are super serious. The whole thing is played very straight, too straight when it jumps around all over the place. It doesn’t sound like it knows what it’s doing. The album sounds very clean. Of course, it’s well produced, but I can’t help wondering what this would sound like if it was a bit more raw and a bit more fuzzy. It might be possible to pull it off. There are good parts, and they come when the album sounds closest to more typical Bright Eyes (‘Ladder Song’) or straight up pop rock (‘Triple Spiral’), or when it hits an almost psychedelic tone. But there don’t seem to be any stand out songs here; most of the tracks are too bitsy for that.

Conor. We’ve had our moments. It’s been good. But you say you’re willing to let this go, and I think that would be best for the both of us, don’t you?

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