Monday, August 08, 2011

A Quick Word On.... The Decemberists

For the last few weeks, these guys have been the soundtrack to my every moment. I've had to limit myself to one album a week out of fear that I might race through them all and suddenly be left empty and longing. One thing is for sure, this is the band that is going to get me through my undergrad degree.

And yet everywhere I go I am screaming "THE DECEMBERISTS! THE DECEMBERISTS!" in people's faces, and they are reply with an unsettling calmness. "Yeah! Aren't they great?" It's like the entire world has been conspiring in secret to keep them away from me. "Don't tell Lyndon," they announce at the monthly meeting, "he'll probably just go all weird."

Well folks, all weird I have gone. After four weeks my passion for the band is only increasing. As I mentioned before, I am aware that some of you are very familiar with them, but on the off-chance that there is a single person out there apart from me who has still not heard of them, I think it's wise to give them a good talking-up. Starting with The King Is Dead, their 2011 effort, I've been working my way through their albums in no particular order. I've found they have an uncanny gift for storytelling, creating vivid and arresting pictures with their music, and employing emotions through song that are extremely rare, and precious when found.

Here is one example that really got me when I first heard it. It's called 'Eli The Barrow Boy'.

My absolute favourite however, is 'The Crane Wife' (from an album of the same name), which is in three parts (so make sure you've got 15 minutes to commit before you listen to this one!) The songs are a musical variation on a Japanese folktale about a poor old man called Osamu who finds a wounded crane on his doorstep. Taking it in, he tends to it until it is mended, at which point it leaves him. Soon after, a woman appears at his house. They are married and she promises to restore his fortune through weaving. Becoming greedy Osamu insists that she weaves more and more, which she does, but makes him promise not to watch her at her work. He cannot resist peeking however, and when he does he sees a white crane working at the loom, plucking and crafting with its beak and its own feathers. The creature turns, and upon seeing Osamu it flies away and is never seen again.

That's the story as the Japanese tell it. This is the story as The Decemberists tell it:

I think that that 3 piece ballad is one of the best things I've ever heard. I don't know what you think, but I'd love to hear it. If you are already a massive Decemberists fan, I'm sure you'll want to tell me your favourites, and what else I should listen to. If you're not, I'd love to know what you think, and if you like them.

Hopefully one or two of you, like me, could even find a new favourite band.

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