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Bright Eyes

The People's Key (Saddle Creek)

Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., March 18, 2011

SXSW Records

Bright Eyes

The People's Key (Saddle Creek)

Conor Oberst has suggested that Bright Eyes' seventh album, the first under the moniker since 2007's Cassadaga, will be the last as his most famous incarnation. It would be a shame to go out on such a disappointing note. Even those willing to follow Oberst's recent spiritual wanderings and ruminations exploring his own brand of voodoo-Castanedaisms or those forgiving enough to ignore this album's fruit-loops of found sound (mostly the ridiculous musings of Denny Brewer) have to balk at the synth-heavy compositions overly shot through with sonic shrapnel serving no purpose like "Approximate Sunlight," "Jejune Stars," and "Beginner's Mind." Oberst's voice trembles with the emotion of his youth, only ripped with spite instead of vulnerability. That solipsism has shifted to an even more detached universalism, which leaves little for the listener to connect with. "Shell Games" and the harrowing, stripped "Ladder Song" provide the LP's only high points. (Sat., 7:30pm, Auditorium Shores Stage)

*.5

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