Bright Eyes “Persona Non Grata” Review
It’s been nine years since we heard from Bright Eyes but Conor Oberst has been plenty busy in the time between 2011’s The People’s Key and now, having released several solo and collaborative projects. Just last year he released Better Oblivion Community Center featuring fellow indie/folk/rock heavyweight bandmates Phoebe Bridgers, Nick Zinner, and Carl Azar. That album proved that Oberst’s songwriting chops had not diminished in the past decade with songs like the breezy “Dylan Thomas” (co-written with Bridgers) highlighting his uncanny ability to pack heavy subjects (the current political environment and conspiracy theories) into pleasant ear-candy. Unlike Better Oblivion Community Center, The People’s Key was a mixed bag of songs that sounded like a blend of ideas from the synth and electronic drenched Digital Ash In A Digital Urn and the band’s high-water mark of I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, both released in 2005.
“Persona Non Grata” finds Bright Eyes (Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nate Wolcott) slowing things down while Oberst sings of a possibly unreconcilable relationship and interesting Halloween costume (“Wore a kilt like a Celt…”). In contrast to The People’s Key, production is sparse. The piano line has a shuffling waltz sound to it while tasteful bagpipe solos appear at the 1:12 and 3:00 marks, giving the song a unique sound and interesting connection between word choice and instrumentation. Oberst has made a living writing songs about personal situations that are both exciting and relatable. Here, his voice is emotive but conversational (aside from a moment at the 2:41 mark where he pushes himself). “Persona Non Grata” may not be revelatory but it is a pleasant addition to the Bright Eyes catalogue and deserves the attention of anyone wondering what that nine-year gap between songs would produce. A full Bright Eyes album is due to be released at some point in 2020. Rating- 7.2