The People's Key

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The People's Key
Brighteyes .jpg
Studio album by Bright Eyes
  • February 1, 2011 (Saddle Creek online pre-order)
  • February 15, 2011
Recorded Omaha, Nebraska
Length 46:58
Label Saddle Creek
Producer Mike Mogis
Bright Eyes chronology
The People's Key
Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 70/100 (35 reviews)[1]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[2]
BBC (mixed)[3]
BLARE Magazine 3.5/5 stars[4]
Consequence of Sound 3.5/5 stars[5]
Drowned in Sound 9/10 stars[6]
NME 8/10 stars[7]
One Thirty BPM (70%)[8]
Paste Magazine (7.5/10)[9]
Pitchfork Media (5.0/10)[10]
Popmatters 6/10 stars[11]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[12]
Spin 7/10 stars[13]
Sputnikmusic 4/5 stars[14]
Tiny Mix Tapes 4/5 stars[15]

The People's Key is the eighth and final studio album by Bright Eyes, the Nebraska band of Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nate Walcott. The album was recorded in Omaha, NE at ARC Studios, produced by Mogis, and engineered by Mogis and Andy LeMaster. The album was released on February 15, 2011, Conor Oberst's birthday, on Saddle Creek Records.[16] Before then, it was streaming online in its entirety as part of NPR's "First Listen" series.[17]

The album features guest artists Andy LeMaster of Now It's Overhead, Matt Maginn of Cursive, Carla Azar of Autolux, Clark Baechle of The Faint, Shane Aspegren of The Berg Sans Nipple, Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds, and Denny Brewer of Refried Ice Cream.[18] The lyrics make mention of Haile Selassie, the Lion of Judah and I and I; all things associated with Rastafari.


According to designer Zack Nipper, the basic idea for the "wall of fire" design came from Conor Oberst, who wanted it to be "visually striking". The design was created using cut paper, similar to the cover for Every Day and Every Night, the first Bright Eyes release Nipper had worked on. Nipper stated that he "designed for vinyl first, then CD, and MP3 last, because that's the order in which viewing it matters."

The first 50,000 copies of this album came with a limited-edition packaging similar to that of all copies of the LP record, in a 6-panel tri-fold die-cut digipak printed on iridescent foil, and including an O-card, full-color CD inner sleeve and a 20-page booklet.

In January 2011, it was announced that The People's Key had won the Best Art Vinyl award.[19]


The People's Key has received mixed to positive critical reception. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 70, based on 35 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[1]

Allmusic praised its smaller scale and gave the album 3 and a 1/2 out of 5 stars. Pitchfork gave the album 5 out of 10 and criticized the 'impersonal' feel of the songs, yet praised "Ladder Song". Slant Magazine gave the album 2 out of a possible 5 stars. No Ripcord gave the album a 60 and commented, "There's not a lot fundamentally wrong with The People's Key; it's just that we know Bright Eyes can do better." However, Drowned In Sound and NME gave the album 9 out of 10 and 8 out of 10 respectively, with NME calling it a "sleek electro-tinged classic" and praising Oberst's more electric musical direction, saying it brought a "fresh strain of Bright Eyes record".

The album debuted at number 13 on the Billboard 200, and made it to number 7 on the Alternative Albums chart. The People's Key also reached number 46 on the UK Albums Chart.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Conor Oberst, except where noted.

No. Title Length
1. "Firewall" 7:16
2. "Shell Games" 3:55
3. "Jejune Stars" 4:10
4. "Approximate Sunlight" (Oberst, Nate Walcott) 4:24
5. "Haile Selassie" 4:33
6. "A Machine Spiritual (In the People's Key)" 4:19
7. "Triple Spiral" 3:51
8. "Beginner's Mind" 3:55
9. "Ladder Song" 3:58
10. "One for You, One for Me" 6:37
Total length: 47:02

A limited edition deluxe packaging edition contains mp3 file samples of various Saddle Creek artists.


  • Conor Oberst – vocals, guitars, pianos and keyboards
  • Mike Mogis – guitars, pedal steel, effects, programming and percussion
  • Nate Walcott – synthesizers, pianos, organs and Mellotron
  • Andy LeMaster – vocals on tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, guitar on tracks 4, 10, bass guitar on track 10
  • Matt Maginn – bass guitar on tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
  • Carla Azar – drums, percussion on tracks 2, 6, 8
  • Clark Baechle – drums on tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 7
  • Shane Agsperen – drums on track 10, additional drums on track 3, additional percussion on track 2
  • Laura Burhenn – vocals on tracks 4, 7, 8
  • Denny Brewer – shamanic vocals

Charts and certifications[edit]

Chart (2011) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[20] 55
UK Albums Chart 46
Billboard 200 13
Canadian Albums Chart 38


  1. ^ a b "The People's Key". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "The People's Key". AllMusic. 
  3. ^ "BBC - Music - Review of Bright Eyes - The People's Key". 
  4. ^ Dan Rankin. "REVIEW: Bright Eyes – "The People's Key"". BLARE. 
  5. ^ "Bright Eyes – The People's Key - Album Reviews - Consequence of Sound". Consequence of Sound. 
  6. ^ James Skinner. "Album Review: Bright Eyes - The People's Key". DrownedInSound. 
  7. ^ NME.COM. "NME Reviews - Album Review: Bright Eyes - The People's Key (Polydor) - NME.COM". NME.COM. 
  8. ^ "Album Review: Bright Eyes - The People's Key - Beats Per Minute". Beats Per Minute. 
  9. ^ "Bright Eyes: The People's Key Review". 
  10. ^ "Bright Eyes". Pitchfork. 
  11. ^ "Bright Eyes". PopMatters. 
  12. ^ Jon Dolan (1 February 2011). "Bright Eyes The People's Key Album Review". Rolling Stone. 
  13. ^ "Bright Eyes, 'The People's Key' (Saddle Creek)". Spin. 
  14. ^ "Bright Eyes - The People's Key (album review 6) - Sputnikmusic". 
  15. ^ Jakob Dorof. "Bright Eyes - The People's Key - Music Review - Tiny Mix Tapes". Tiny Mix Tapes. 
  16. ^ Breihan, Tom. "Bright Eyes Return With New Album", Pitchfork Media, November 30, 2010, accessed November 30, 2010.
  17. ^ NPR. "NPR First Listen: Bright Eyes — The People's Key", NPR, January 31, 2011, accessed January 31, 2011.
  18. ^ Smith, Bethany. "Bright Eyes’ releasing The People’s Key February 2011", Popwreckoning, November 30, 2010, accessed November 30, 2010.
  19. ^ "The People's Key Wins Best Art Vinyl 2011". 
  20. ^ "Chartifacts - Week Commencing: 28th February 2011". Australian Recording Industry Association. February 28, 2011. Archived from the original on March 1, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 

External links[edit]