Note: After 3 albums on indie label Kill Rock Stars, this The Decemberists major-label debut.
Sound: Colin Meloy still narrates ancient folk tales while the band shows off their period instrumentation (accordion, chamber strings, pump organ, banjo, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel and dulcimer), but The Decemberists have modernized. Hammond organ, Moog bass, guitar riffs and harder-hitting drums usher in the band’s electric era. At times, they dabble in the prog rock virtuosity of Yes; Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Pink Floyd. Other times, they return to the jangly, modern rock sounds of R.E.M. (which can be found on their last album Picaresque, but are more amped up here).
Heavy Rotation tracks: “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)” (Top 20 Songs of 2005 Candidate); “The Perfect Crime #2”
Medium Rotation tracks: “The Island” (note: this is a 12 ½ minute, 3-part epic); O Valencia!”; “Summersong”; “Shankill Butchers”
Explicit Lyrics*: none
Recommended: The Crane Wife doesn’t have quite as many classics as Picaresque (my #6 Album of 2005), but it’s darn close. Despite moving to the big leagues and beefing up their sound a bit, The Decemberists remain true to themselves and evolve gracefully. They are one of the premier indie-minded rock bands today.
Grade: A- (Strong Top 20 Albums of 2006 Candidate)
* Noting of explicit lyrics is for the benefit of radio music directors or anyone else that needs/wants to keep their music FCC-friendly.