The People’s Key is addicting and gets better with every listen. It begins with an opening segment that intends to ward off easy listeners with over two minutes of the narrator preaching about dimensions and love. But if you manage to get past the guy’s self- righteous voice, you can actually take away a lot of beautiful things he says. After this voice over, the song starts out of nowhere with Oberst laying down themes of a futuristic world through the hologram he saw at the theme park and the land of tomorrow.
In this final album, Oberst tells the story between all of his music. In early albums like Lifted or The Story is In the Soil, Keep your ear to the ground, he declares his undying love for his friends. Then in Cassadaga he talks about the friends he never visits but always wants to. Yet surprisingly in this album he calls his friends traitors and refers to them in the past tense. “I'm tired of traitors, always changing sides. They were friends of mine.” In the song "Shell Games", he cites every album art of the Bright Eyes collection. “The fireworks, (Letting Off the Happiness) the vanity, (Fevers and Mirrors) circuit board (Digital Ash in a Digital Urn), city streets (I'm Wide Awake, Its Morning)”. In a way, he is wrapping up the end of Bright Eyes.
Listeners have to accept that this is not the emotional heartfelt Conor Oberst we all know and love. This lack of emotion is accented through the synthetic electronic mix by Mike Mogis and Oberst’s cold cynical tone in songs like “Approximate Sunlight”. The album presents an array of styles from eclectic pop songs, to slow, mellow songs. All of the songs are very produced and far from raw. But this isn't to say that they are empty and have no meaning.
On the contrary, the last two tracks are contenders for best Bright Eyes songs of all time. With “Ladder Song”, Oberst gives us some of his beautiful grief which is so characteristic of his older heartbreaking songs. The final song, “One for you, one for me” is a great ending for the entire Bright Eyes era. The perfect closure is the narrator preaching his final words “That’s love, you know, compassion, art, uh, uh. What do you call it?” then Oberst jumps in and tells him “Mercy”.