Sometimes in art, there are predictors of change or statements on the here and now. If you get lucky (viewer or artist), you might be able to encase such statements in a user reflective wrapper that holds them all. For me, this citing of the Zeitgeist often occurs in record albums. In recent years, my favorite albums come from the band Bright Eyes, and their singer/songwriter frontman, Conor Oberst.
Sure, Mr. Oberst is often associated with the emo genre, and it’s no secret that I’m a Bright Eyes super fan, but the meaning of this post goes beyond the subjective. The artist and band are no strangers to political and social activism. What’s more is that they’re part of a self-created collective shown in Saddle Creek’s roster of other influential artists. Folks often compare Oberst to Dylan, which I don’t think is far off. Looking past trendy criticisms, I think Bright Eyes and other bands like them are what is the new Americana, whether it is styled in the digital or traditional. I hear something strong and cosmic in their releases and the latest is no exception.
Recent albums by BE are very thematic, which makes the story and the sub-plots within them much bigger. The metaphysical is a thread that is woven into the latter part of the band’s catalog. You don’t have to believe in psychics or subscribe to every New Age belief to enjoy the tunes. The only thing I really believe in is mathematics, but I’ve been a bit swayed by some of this inspiration. I do admit to being fascinated by things such as “Ancient Aliens”. Believing that there’s something bigger, within or outside of others is not that hard. Oddly enough, when meeting Mr. Oberst, he gave his autograph, and said “God Bless”.
The cover of this new story is decorated in flames. They seem to be everywhere these days. This could represent that the People’s Key could either be the destruction of established wrongs, (seen daily on the news), or as heard in many of the tracks, love. I know many are not ready to gather ’round and start singing Cumbaya, (myself included), but anger can only get us but so far.
Certainly in this time of political unrest, protest, and economic struggle, many don’t feel confident in much. It might take something like looking into ourselves and then one another to come up with solutions. But then I guess I’d have to believe in something like Singularity to be that hopeful.
To be one of my faves, the meaning has to transcend the sound in a piece, while being just as good. This is one of those. Best album of 2011, hands down.