Bright Eyes take it back home with their first release in nine years, bringing us all together on the highly relatable new track, Persona Non Grata.
For Bright Eyes fans it’s been a long wait. Nine years since their last album The People’s Key, Conor Oberst et al have ended their lengthy hiatus by announcing a new album and tour, backing this up with the release of new track Persona Non Grata. The band have suggested that getting the band back together was “both an escape from, and a confrontation of, trying times”. We’re all in trying times at the moment and just like the world’s current situation, Persona Non Grata manages to feel both personal and inclusive of everyone at the same time.
The track begins with gentle piano against Conor Oberst’s warm and instantly recognisable tones which, for many, will feel like home. We’re in immediately recognisable Bright Eyes territory from the offset as the singer’s imagery and wordplay wrap around your mind and soul just like they used to nine years ago. Conor has a penchant for speaking about nothing and everything at the same time but always somehow builds his warblings into an emotional whole. Persona non Grata is no different, on the surface creating ideas of beauty in unsteadiness, which is exactly what we need with the current overwhelming uncertainty throughout the world. The track manages to encompass everyone, but still shows flourishes of the personal as Conor sings of a relationship needing more commitment: “you want to be true to me once again, and you want me to be true to you once again.”
Gentle and serene, its a slow builder but still has flourishes of brilliance. There’s a Celtic vibe at times with what appears to be a ‘tinkered with’ bagpipe sound that’s intermittently used as a playful riff to build around, with Conor also mentioning the Celtic in the lyrics at one point. Whether this theme will be continued on the upcoming record remains to be seen. There’s also some nice harmonising sections nearer the conclusion of the track which builds on the theme of reconcilement that comes full circle before the track gently fades out.
As with many Bright Eye’s songs, Persona Non Grata allows the listener to draw their own conclusions from the track and place their own experiences within Oberst’s lyrics. It’s also good to see the band have lost none of their skill in fitting music and lyrics around each other in an interesting but homely way. The track is a treasure trove of fine but subtle ideas that whets the appetite for the upcoming full-length even more.