Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Shell Games” by Bright Eyes from their 2011 album The People’s Key on Saddle Creek.
It has been over three years since Bright Eyes’ last release, Cassadaga, which came out in 2007, and after making records with the Mystic Valley Band and Monsters of Folk in the meantime, Conor Oberst is back with his original band for their seventh studio album, The People’s Key, set to be released February 15 on Saddle Creek. Fans shouldn’t expect the tender acoustic folk they’re used to from Oberst, however, as the new album will have decidedly different feel to it. As Oberst told Billboard:
“We’re over the Americana, rootsy, whatever that sound is. People say country, but I never thought were very country at all. But whatever that element is or that aesthetic is, I guess it’s worn a little thin for me these days. So we very much wanted it to be rocking and, for lack of a better term, contemporary, or modern.”
If you’re curious as to what a “rocking” and “modern” Bright Eyes will sound like, today’s Song of the Day is a prime example. It features a number of synth-y effects and keyboard lines, building drums, and heavy, electrified guitar riffs — overall, the song is a lot more powerful, grandiose, and “arena-ready” than what we’re used to from Oberst and company. Despite the almost profuse “modern”-ness of “Shell Games,” it retains what is and always has been at the heart of Bright Eyes’ songs, and that is Oberst’s heartfelt voice and distinctively affecting lyricism.
The People’s Key was recorded entirely in Omaha, Nebraska, over the course of 2010, and though this particular incarnation of Bright Eyes revolves around Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nate Walcott, several familiar friends helped out with the recording, including members of Cursive and The Faint. Touring for The People’s Key will kick off on March 2 and feature a six-piece band and no acoustic instruments. It appears they will be skipping over Seattle, but will be in Vancouver, BC, on April 8 and Portland on April 9. They’ll also be in Indio, CA, for Coachella on April 16. For a complete touring schedule, click here.
While we’re waiting for them to come through the Northwest, here’s a little reminder of the Bright Eyes of old: