Sometimes, a year in music is defined by discovery. You find a new band you love. Some artist you never heard of before inspires you to check out their entire back catalog. It’s great. Other years, though, are defined by musicians drifting away. We gain fandom, but we also lose it. To me, 2011 is a year defined by artists getting further and further in my rearview. Maybe that’s because it’s arguably the least-impressive year of music in the last 10-15 years. Or perhaps its realizing I no longer had any interest in two of my previous favorite bands. It’s a two-fer this week as I write about Bright Eyes’ The People’s Key and Radiohead’s The King of Limbs.
In high school, and at the beginning of college, Bright Eyes was my favorite band. I loved the work of Conor Oberst. It really struck me as a teenager. I bought Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning the day they both came out, which happened to be the same day. I had listened to them both in their entirety before I ever got home. I literally parked my car at a Meijer to listen. Man, they were so good to me. Now, though, they are probably the only two Bright Eyes albums I think are good.
I think the key phrase in that last paragraph is “as a teenager.” As I grew up the early Bright Eyes stuff resonated with me less. Then, Oberst released Cassadaga in 2007. I didn’t like it at all. Now I was finding his work too pretentious. I’ll be honest, I’ve never listened to The People’s Key. I completely skipped it. After Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers joined forces for Better Oblivion Community Center, which I really enjoyed, I gave the Bright Eyes album in 2020 with the obnoxiously long and pretentious name a shot. It was pretty good. I have no intention of every listening to any of those songs again.
Radiohead was also one of my favorites in high school and college. OK Computer is great Kid A is great. I had In Rainbows on repeat in my car in college. I had downloaded it based on their “pay what you want” plan and I paid nothing because I was like 20 and also like I said I was in college. Maybe I gave them five bucks? I’ll be generous to myself and say I gave them five bucks.
Of course, In Rainbows was part of Radiohead’s drifting from being a rock band to making ethereal, digital music. The King of Limbs went all the way there. I couldn’t get into it. It was too hard to grab a hold of. It was OK, but nothing more. Then, when A Moon Shaped Pool came out, I didn’t listen to the entire thing. I heard a couple songs and I was find with that. Radiohead had gone too far from being the band I really enjoyed.
Sure, I’ve changed since I was a teenager, but in 2011 – when I was in my early twenties – Bright Eyes and Radiohead had changed as well. I feel like I changed for the better. I can’t say the same for these two bands.