Conor Oberst thrives on change. The Omaha singer-songwriter dropped the first track from his upcoming Bright Eyes album, The People’s Key (out February 15), and it’s a total departure from the pastoral Americana sound of his past few releases. Download “Shell Games” below!
“I’m proud that we’ve always managed to experiment and make a different record every time out,” Oberst tells SPIN of Bright Eyes, his collaborative project with producer Mike Mogis and multi-instrumentalist Nate Walcott. “I was feeling burnt out on the Americana, roots-y sound. We wanted to do something different, something modern.”
Mission accomplished. “Shell Games” starts as a tender solo piano ballad, but then explodes with super-sized rock guitars and new wave synth lines — a new sound for Oberst that’s a long way from Outer South, his countrified 2009 solo album. Lyrically, Oberst, a political activist who has supported President Obama and protested Arizona’s immigration legislation (which he addressed in a recent song), focuses on personal feelings of love and alienation in “Shell Games.”
“My tortured youth / Piss and vinegar / I’m still angry with no reason to be,” he spits in his characteristic, fast-talking style. “Change my mind / Change the paradigm / Forgive myself for the many times I was cruel to something helpless and weak / Here comes that heavy love.”