After The People's Key in 2011, it looked like Bright Eyes might never make another album again. All three members of the Nebraskan indie-folk band have since branched out into other projects – not least frontman Conor Oberst, who revived his punk band Desaparecidos and formed Better Oblivion Community Center with Phoebe Bridgers.
Their decision to regroup for their 10th album pays dividends. Although Oberst is a wondrous lyricist and was a precocious talent in his younger years, these songs are informed by life experience. The death of his brother in 2016 and Obert’s divorce the following year both play a prominent role on songs such as Hot Car in the Sun, Persona Non Grata and Just Once in the World, while this is less overtly political than some of his previous work. Musically, it also acknowledges their back catalogue, most notably the lush orchestration of Cassadaga and the electronic burble of Digital Ash.
That’s arguably this album’s downfall; by nodding to the past instead of pushing on for something more daring, casual listeners may fine it all a little too evenly paced despite the odd surprise here and there. Even so, there is gold to be mined with every listen; Bright Eyes have always been a band that reward patience, and this album is no different.