Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Look, Mom! I'm Previewing My First CD!

I'm dating myself with that title.     (but, whatever.) 

Remember these?
As a young kid, I had two (count them: 2) cassette tapes. But CD's came out when I was a teenager, and so that's how I've always thought of what are traditionally thought of as 'albums'.
[you'll notice, though, that from here forward, I'm gonna go with the traditional term. Because I don't have a good reason yet not to.]

Now it happens we of the early 21st century are in a weird transitional place -- music when purchased comes most often as an album; when downloaded it comes most often as a single song (with or without video accompaniment). And so, naturally, it changes how people perceive the music and how they expect to consume it.
(If you pay for something, for example, you're gonna try hard to enjoy it, because you've got something invested in it. But if you get it for free, you just want it to be 'interesting' enough to keep you listening.)

But y'all already know all this stuff.
I'm just admitting that now I'm beginning to know it too.

And: point is, When I found out this morning that I could stream Bright Eyes' latest (and last?) album The People's Key,
                              debuting February 15th,                              for free on NPR,
I said to myself,
You've gotta listen to that, man. You totally won't regret it at all. Just think of the glory! You'll be a real pioneer.   [or something like that.]     [and, Yes. I talk to myself sometimes.  Doesn't everyone?]

Well, so I did listen to it.
But I didn't get much out of it   the first go-around
Because I didn't have enough context.

Fortunately for me,
Jon Dolan (at Rolling Stone) had already written his review:
And Jon helped me understand
the album's context --

that The People's Key had been Bright Eyes' first album since 2007,
and that it'd been a decade since (what some consider) his best,
Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground,
and that Conor Oberst had been road-tripping it alot recently,
and that he doesn't much want to be the 'new Dylan' that others say he might be,
and that he likes Rastafarianism,
and somewhere else I learned that he'd been making albums with a couple of other bands,
but wants to close the door on Bright Eyes,
although his latest venture is a try at being more accessible, a little more tune-ful, a little more mainstream rock, a little more "in the people's key."

Like, "Haile Selassie" (which you can hear for free here).
Though about things as foreign as a long-dead Ethiopian king
It's really catchy.

"Pilgrim across the water / We are the same / Brother / Hitchhiking back to Zion / Holding our tears as we flip the album // What if this leads to ruin? / You've got a soul / Use it."

A steady, contagious downstroke strum
keeps our feet a-tapping,
And a mix of epigrams and Ethiopian trivia
keeps our minds attentive.

... We've found a winner!

There are also
peppered throughout the album
these strange rambling sermonettes
from a friend of Conor Oberst's
he met while bumming around the country.
Not really sure what to make of them,
except that they're weird,
and probably worth listening to more closely
when I find the time.

So, I'm giving Bright Eyes' The People's Key
A Definite Thumb's Up
because it's still pretty poetic
(as is a lot of his earlier stuff)
but less 'whiny.'
(the impression one of my flatmate's had of the band).

And I guess I could say
(though it's already all free and available on the NPR website)
I'm Looking Forward to the New Album's Release, in Just 2 Weeks.

Go Bright Eyes!


  1. Hey it's mom, the one and only. just your review has intrigued me to listen to this freeby from NPR. At first I thought it was Jim Brickman's song but remembered his song is Angel Eyes, which i am sure is miles away from similar to Bright Eyes, which is also the name of Shirley Temples first movie. Now I am dating myself...

  2. ...and you had 9 cassettes, the other 7 were in the car. :O