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Cult indie/folk band made-good, led by acclaimed singer-songwriter and Saddle Creek Records founder Conor Oberst. The People’s Key may or may not be their final album.
The People’s Key sees Oberst and co. making a conscious move away from the stripped-down Americana sound that they’ve long been known for. Here we find them in more polished, plugged-in territory (not for the first time, see also 2004's Digital Ash In A Digital Urn).
In terms of lyrics, Oberst seems to have all but abandoned the literate, story-teller style of songwriting that won him so many fans earlier in his career. Throughout The People’s Key he seems to favour largely incomprehensible verses full of references to religious conspiracies and Rastafarianism. That said, this far into his career Oberst is undoubtedly a very accomplished songsmith, and these talents still shine through on much of the album.
The real hero here, however, is Oberst’s long-term sidekick, producer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis. With the abandonment of their folky roots Mogis really gets to go to town with interesting production tricks - layering up country-esque guitar licks with rhythmic keyboards and multi-tracked vocals in a way that really complements Oberst’s often-baffling vocals.