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Bright Eyes' 9-Year Hiatus Ends With 'Persona Non Grata'

Conor Oberst has kept busy since the last Bright Eyes record, The People's Key, came out in 2011: He's released a handful of solo albums, toured extensively, made a bunch of guest appearances and formed Better Oblivion Community Center, a terrific band with Phoebe Bridgers. And now, the project that made him world-famous is officially back with its first new music in almost a decade.

Bright Eyes, which Oberst founded as a bedroom project in 1995, announced a world tour back in February. That tour has of course been shelved for the time being, due to concerns surrounding the spread of the coronavirus. But the band is still releasing new music this year — starting with "Persona Non Grata," out today. The song is a bundle of nervy anxiety, possibly even a bit too well-suited to the current moment.

The band — Oberst, Mike Mogis and Nate Wolcott — released this kind and reassuring statement to accompany the song's release:

Strange days indeed. Just wanted to send our love and solidarity to everyone out there feeling alone, frightened and isolated. You are not alone. We are all in this together. We, like so many others, had many plans for 2020. We will be releasing a new album this year no matter what. We also have lots of touring plans which we are now reassessing. We will keep you involved as things progress. We very much want to get on the road and hope to see you all in person sooner rather than later. Until then, here is a song called "Persona Non Grata." We hope you like it. It was hard to decide which song to share first because they are all quite different, but this one seemed as good of a place as any to start. And it has bagpipes! Which is a first for us. We hope this finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe. Thinking of you fondly.

Bright Eyes celebrates several milestones this year, including 25 years of existence, 20 years since the release of its breakthrough album Fevers and Mirrors, and 15 years since the dual release of I'm Wide Awake It's Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.

"Persona Non Grata" is out now viaDead Oceans.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)