Release date: Feb. 15, 2011
Record label: Saddle Creek
Official website: http://www.conoroberst.com/
The buzz: When singer-songwriter Conor Oberst's longstanding Bright Eyes outfit simultaneously released two albums in 2005 that charted in the top 20, fans of the young musical genius watched him catapult into mainstream adoration. Six years later, he and his bandmates release their eighth studio album with help from fellow Omaha musician/pals from Cursive, the Faint and Autolux.
Verdict: At 31, singer-songwriter Conor Oberst is no longer the intensely prodigal young singer-songwriter that had critics maniacally hailing him as the second coming of Bob Dylan. And, over the course of his professional career, his trademark emotive warble has become less warbly, while his skill as a songwriter has blossomed into increasingly more interesting incarnations. On "The People's Key"—purportedly the last Bright Eyes record—Oberst and his collaborators Nathan Walcott and Mike Mogis (who also produced) bring together some of the countrified sounds he explored on his recent solo albums, weaving in Calexico-inspired guitar twangs while lyrically exploring spirituality and the magic of the cosmos. The end result is an album bursting with energy, subtle eccentricities, and an emotional sincerity that flows more naturally than ever before—and feeling like a fitting cap to a project loved as much by longtime fans as by the musicians themselves.
Did you know? The evocative voice that appears on the album speaking about UFOs, the galaxy, and reptile-people belongs to Denny Brewer, the guitarist for the Austin-based Refried Icecream, whom Oberst befriended.