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September 15, 2008

The Decemberists


It's been a few years since I've spent any time updating my website and even longer since I paid much attention to my music page. This is ridiculous and foolish of me since music has always been incredibly important to me. Music has been a big part of all my memories and even most of my relationships. My best friend in high school and I cemented our relationship over a love of Eurythmics. My dad and I bonded over a mutual love of Ella Fitzgerald. My mom and I shared a love of musicals. My first very serious, long-term relationship suffered as the years went on in part because I couldn't stand his taste in the Grateful Dead and Jimmy Buffett. And my now-husband found me online partly due to my listing Richard Thompson as one of my favorite musicians. He and I found discussing music to be a great icebreaker in our early dates and one of my greatest coups was making him a full-fledged fan of The Decemberists.

The Decemberists are currently my favorite band. They may remain so forever, as far as I can tell right now, because there's no end to their brilliance, their character, Colin Meloy's intelligent songwriting and quirky voice, and their incredible stage shows. I discovered them a few years ago and immediately I was hooked. Every now and then you get that band who hits you in just the right way at just the right moment and it makes you feel so lucky to have found them.

The Decemberists have 4 full-fledged albums under their belts right now--Castaways and Cutouts, Her Majesty, Picaresque, and The Crane Wife. They also have a variety of EPs out there, my favorite of which is The Tain, a 20 minute + piece with 5 movements. I picked Picaresque to highlight because it holds the first Decemberists songs that blew me away.

"The Infanta" was the first song of theirs that grabbed me and I remember thinking, "This is completely new. I've never heard anything like this." Colin's lyrics are so strange, so story-like, full of false history (and real history sometimes), and so intelligent. He uses words you normally would never hear on the radio and sometimes words you have to look up. For instance, an "infanta" is a female royal child. "The Mariner's Revenge Song" is a 8 minute epic about a boy whose mother was ruined by a debauched sailor and the son spends the rest of his life searching for him and finally confronting him at sea, while they're both in the belly of a whale. This is an amazing song performed live--led by Chris Funk, their guitarist, several members of the band come out in a whale costume. "We Both Go Down Together" is about a rich boy and poor girl who commit suicide so they can be together. It's really very sweet while having a lot of darkness underneath. "The Sporting Life" is about a boy playing soccer, badly, while his "girlfriend" and father and coach all look on sorrowfully. It's a very fun, upbeat song about the misery of being uncoordinated in a sporty world. Hopefully you're getting the idea of the variety and oddity of The Decemberists' songs. I know I can't properly convey their genius, but maybe I've piqued your curiosity enough to get you to take a listen.

Pick up any Decemberists album and you won't be disappointed. The Crane Wife is their most recent album and the first for a mainstream label. It's also one of the most accessible, I think, though not my absolute favorite. However, you may have heard the brilliant "O Valencia" on the radio, as it actually got some play. It's a great West Side Story tale that takes place in my very own San Francisco. Be sure to check out the amazing video for the song on You Tube: O Valencia

I've found a ridiculous amount of fantastic music in the last few years so I have lots to write about. I'm going to try hard to update this space frequently so please check back for more recommendations!

Posted by Alyssa at September 15, 2008 04:43 PM

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