The tenth studio album by Bright Eyes is one that few would have expected to hear in 2020 after Connor Oburst said that The People’s Key (2011) would be the band’s last release, but after nearly a decade, and a large mess of current public and personal events, this album is a warm welcome back for the band. Down in the Weeds is the same familiar somber, reflective attitude juxtaposed with full and charged up orchestration that has always been familiar to Bright Eyeslisteners, but also like the rest of the bands catalog the album is its own character where each song belongs with the others under the same conceptual net. Ambivalence is the character of this album, which is the attitude Conor Oberst displays in his lyrics that are searching for what to do with his life now after the death of his brother in 2017 and divorcing from his wife of seven years (who is speaking spanish on the opening ambient track of the album: Pageturners Rag). These themes really stand out on tracks like Mariana Trench and Pan and Broom which have Conor Oberst recognizing his place in his experiences and trying to rationalize where he should be going now.
The music in Down in the Weeds has a wide range of musical sounds from horns and large string sections to flugel horns, bagpipes, and the marxophone and the sound of the album is spiced up even more by numerous features ranging from Flea (on Dance and Sing plus several other tracks) to Zack de la Rocha (on tracks like Mariana Trench and Forced Convalescence) and Jon Theodore (who provides drums for most of the album). Bright Eyes have made a personal favorite addition to their list of albums, and have found a new voice after a decade that’s familiar but relevant.