The People's Key - Saddle Creek
FILTER Grade: 85%
By Marissa Moss on March 23, 2011
“I was dressed in white/Touched by something pure.” It may not be what he was getting at, but it’s hard not to think of Cassadaga-era Oberst onstage during that tour: dressed in tailored, pure white Prada—clothes so agleam, they’d reflect the auditorium lights. For many, the sight and sound of a cleaned-up Bright Eyes left them unfulfilled and wistful for the journey past promised. It’s this album that finally sees it realized. Mature but not shined to its brightest nickel, there’s still a little bit of green, and it glows with Oberst’s stark roughness and honesty that drew many to Bright Eyes in the first place. There are bits of Lifted and Cassadaga, even electronic touches circa Digital Urn, and it’s the melding of these styles—Oberst is either still seeking a genre, or refusing to have one altogether—that produces the sound here. “Firewall” is opened by the book of Genesis and the infinite universe—a lot of noise, maybe a peek inside the head of a songwriter conflicted by what to believe, and if the album could use one thing, it would be a deeper, personal look into Oberst’s head (“Ladder Song,” however, does this beautifully). But as he sings on the closing track, “One for You, One for Me,” it’s all about balance. He knows his job is to play us music, but he’s got to do it for him, too.