Metascore
70

Generally favorable reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 35
  2. Negative: 1 out of 35
  1. Mar 21, 2011
    90
    The band has pulled off the difficult trick of sculpting a record concerned with weighty, complex themes and made it sound like the breeziest, most effortless thing in the world: a collection of fleet, shimmering pop songs; a master-class in sonic splendour; a bold, beautiful and brilliant reinvention that should surprise as many as it will enthrall.
  2. It's good to listen to a record like The People's Key, if for no other reason, just to appreciate a songwriter who knew exactly what he wanted to do and executed it perfectly.
  3. Feb 15, 2011
    83
    He delivers a truer, less emotional, album-length confession about wanting to believe the unbelievable, and loving others for wanting the same.
  4. Mar 23, 2011
    80
    He knows his job is to play us music, but he's got to do it for him, too. 
  5. Mar 23, 2011
    80
    For all their diversity and maturity, these songs couldn't have been written by anyone else, and this welcome return shows that the three years since the last Bright Eyes album have been well spent.
  6. Mar 22, 2011
    80
    With The People's Key, he continues to solidify his place as one of the great songwriters of his generation. Here's hoping he doesn't hang it up anytime soon.
  7. Mar 9, 2011
    80
    If this really is a farewell, Bright Eyes is at least going out with an apocalyptic bang. [March 2011, p. 100]
  8. 80
    Perhaps Oberst finds it tough to bring his brilliant bile to bear upon a synth the way he attacks an acoustic; a shame, as The People's Key is otherwise synthetic perfection.
  9. Feb 16, 2011
    80
    Depending on how one looks at it, The People's Key might even be understood as the culmination of a long and troublesome trajectory Bright Eyes began as a teenager's bedroom project in the mid-90s.
  10. 80
    As much as this album sounds like a final chapter, a loose-end knotting affair designed as a summary statement, there are no subplots left unresolved.
  11. Conor Oberst has always been an artist to inspire, irritate and frustrate, and on what he says will be the final BE album he does these things in equal measure.
  12. Feb 10, 2011
    80
    It's as if Bright Eyes have finally exited their bedroom and entered a brave new musical world
  13. Feb 18, 2011
    75
    The People's Key is a return to immediacy after the arguably overlong concept album Cassadaga.
  14. 75
    Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst takes a walk with the mystics on the band's latest album.
  15. Feb 24, 2011
    70
    The People's Key, more or less Oberst's 10th album as Bright Eyes, finds him aiming for the prophetic over the personal, embracing the luxuries of the studio instead of hunkering down in the bedroom.
  16. Feb 23, 2011
    70
    The anger is what makes The People's Key's best moments so vital. [Mar 2011, p.98]
  17. 70
    While some of the tracks don't exactly have the staying power of the record's haunting opener, this is a solid collection of songs from an artist who has been making these things since his childhood.
  18. The People's Key just doesn't have the emotional pull that others do.
  19. Feb 18, 2011
    70
    The best thing to do on The People's Key isn't to connect with Oberst's lyrics. It's to connect with how connected Oberst is with what he's singing.
  20. Feb 16, 2011
    70
    Perhaps it lacks ballast and gestalt, but Bright Eyes arguably operates better on a smaller scale, trading pretension for fractured pop that cuts into the cranium with skewed precision.
  21. Feb 14, 2011
    70
    The People's Key proves Oberst has learned to balance a cutting perspective with a bleeding heart.
  22. Feb 14, 2011
    70
    He manages to be everything at once: folkie and punk, old soul and eternal boy, high-plains drifter and hipster heartthrob.
  23. Feb 14, 2011
    70
    Mescaline-soaked narratives woven through hallucinatory images of Americana.
  24. Feb 14, 2011
    65
    The People's Key is not a bad album. In fact, boil the meat off these tracks, and you'd probably have the skeleton of a quite good album.
  25. Feb 15, 2011
    63
    Key may still sound angry, but Oberst's wrong on one point - he's always found true reasons to be before.
  26. Apr 6, 2011
    60
    Conor Oberst regroups with the band that made him. [March 2011, p. 94]
  27. Feb 25, 2011
    60
    There's not a lot fundamentally wrong with The People's Key; it's just that we know Bright Eyes can do better.
  28. Feb 16, 2011
    60
    It's funny: after all that growth, Conor Oberst chooses to end his Bright Eyes project right back where it all began-with an unapologetic declaration of solipsism.
  29. 60
    The arrangements are pleasurable enough, less rootsy than before, with some skilled use of orchestration; but it's a shame to find such a gifted songwriter sounding so gullible.
  30. Feb 15, 2011
    60
    Problematically for a singer-songwriter, Oberst drops personal feelings, wry asides and hip references equally lightly--ultimately, you're disinclined to believe anything he says at all. [Mar 2011, p.85]
  31. Feb 23, 2011
    50
    The musicianship is outstanding, as one would expect, and Mike Mogis' production is, as usual, flawless, but the songs and direction simply aren't there.
  32. Feb 16, 2011
    50
    Every line is laid with the rich sense of rhythm and texture that he's mastered over the years, but it still adds up to very little: a wildly spiritual record without any spirit.
  33. Feb 16, 2011
    40
    This overflowing sense of self has done more to define Oberst than anything else, and it continues on The People's Key, spilling into the contemporary malaise he invokes and the often brilliant poetic associations of which he's sometimes capable.
  34. Feb 15, 2011
    40
    Ultimately it amounts to two decent tunes in the singer-songwriter pop idiom, padded out with angsty filler and hot air.
  35. Mar 17, 2011
    30
    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.
User Score
7.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 32 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 7
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 7
  3. Negative: 0 out of 7
  1. Feb 15, 2011
    9
    To me, this sounds like what I love about Bright Eyes yet something new at the same time. Seems to me that Conor and friends are filled withTo me, this sounds like what I love about Bright Eyes yet something new at the same time. Seems to me that Conor and friends are filled with good ideas. Not sure how a Bright Eyes fan could not like this? Sounds great to my ears, love it! Full Review »
  2. Jan 2, 2012
    8
    My favorite songs on the album are: 1)Triple Spiral, 2)A Machine Spiritual (In the People's Key) 3)Jejune Stars. It took me a while to warm upMy favorite songs on the album are: 1)Triple Spiral, 2)A Machine Spiritual (In the People's Key) 3)Jejune Stars. It took me a while to warm up to this album as it is a little whacked but when I did I can gladly say its good, and while it's not Bright Eye's best, it does have some depth and good reflective lyrics as Bright Eyes is known for. I would also recommend checking out live versions of these songs as I feel that these recordings are not the best versions out there. Recommended. Full Review »
  3. Aug 30, 2011
    8
    Oberst is one of my favorite lyricists. He some how conveys deep messages with simple sentences. I can't fathom how a critic gave this album aOberst is one of my favorite lyricists. He some how conveys deep messages with simple sentences. I can't fathom how a critic gave this album a 30... on what basis are they reviewing albums? I also love the sermon that is sampled throughout the album, the ideas there are very interesting to me. Great listen. Full Review »