Decemberists - Picaresque Review

Folk indie pop never sounded as good as when produced by the uber-creative Decemberists. Using a wide array of instruments ranging from your typical (drums, guitars) to the truly eccentric (accordions, Hammond and Wurlitzer Organs), this Portland band constructs a story with each song they sing. For this reason I\'d compare them to the epic singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie. Every song defies what you think it should do - and if you listen long enough, you\'ll find you enjoy that very much.

Picaresque, their third full-length album, adopts a salty tinge to which the organs and accordions lend themselves seamlessly. It\'s not hard to imagine the Decemberists hanging around a busy fishing village or wharf narrating the every day occurrences with their unique brand of sound. Picaresque\'s sound goes unparalleled by not only the other albums of the Decemberists themselves, but by any recording artist to date.

As the album starts out with "The Infanta" the moderate tempo gives the listener a fair idea of the entire album\'s pace. While songs may be sad, wistful or even vengeful they never once stray from the standard put forth by the first track. "We Both Go Down Together" will quickly become a favorite among listeners as the instrumentation and lyrics strike a melodically beautiful mark that will get the toes tapping and the mind quickly singing along.

"Eli, the Barrow Boy" narrates the day to day struggles of a blue-collar worker in what we imagine to be rougher times than these; in a time and situation where working to survive is no exaggeration of the terms. Once again, the song is beautiful in that it not only manages to strike a note so sullen as to fit perfectly within the album\'s framework, but that the tempo follows the precedent of "The Infanta" without sacrificing it\'s morose imagery.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Picaresque is the penchant of the Decemberists to write truly epic songs. Songs that follow in the storytelling vein of Dylan or Don Mclean evoking a gambit of emotions by painstakingly spelling out the tragic details of epic tales worthy of films unto themselves. While "The Bagman\'s Gambit", the first of the two epic songs on Picaresque, will entertain, the one truly worth mentioning is "The Mariner\'s Revenge Song" - a true masterpiece of musical accomplishment. By the end of the song the visual image of the antagonist\'s face satisfies the emotionally involved listener to no end. I truly believe a film could be made of this song alone.

Picaresque deserves your attention whether you typically listen to nothing but death metal or if you don\'t even listen to music at all (maybe you have one\'s juding). This album will make you believe in the indomitable skill of the independent music world. "The Mariner\'s Revenge Song" falls in my official "Top Ten Songs of All Time" list.

I would recommend this album to anyone - and you should do the same. Spread the word, the Decemberists deserve every ounce of fame that comes their way.

"Picaresque" is on sale March 25, 2005 from Capitol.



  • No related articles


New Reviews