THE DECEMBERISTS – by peter soyer
The first time Colin Meloy’s voice floats out of the speakers, I felt like I found a friend I lost 17 years ago. Like I was in downtown San Francisco, bums asking for money, people looking straight ahead, moving like robots to offices with no windows, when out of no where my best friend from elementary school rounds the corner. But he has lost a leg to a factory accident and is now barely making ends meet. That is the mood Meloy and his companions set on every listener. Everything is bittersweet, but utterly addictive. The mix of instruments also adds to the lush folky sound. Ezra Holbrook is on drums, Nate Query hits the upright bass, Jenny Conlee plays accordion and Chris Funk masters the theremin and pedal steel guitar. The sounds on all the albums hearken to a distant past that was romantic, dark, and sad. The baroque instrumentation is fleshed out by Funk’s subtle theremin. The understated sounds and strings floating just under the surface allow the full potential of the songs to spring out. Meloy hails from Missoula, MT, and has the essence of that wooded college town flowing through his songs. Missoula sticks out as a liberal hot bed in the conservative world of Montana. Liberalism floats through open windows and infects almost everyone who lives there. Like Missoula, Meloy is a breath of fresh music in a world of stagnant verse-chorus-verse. His lyrics set his songs apart from the other noise makers in the scene today. Meloy lives and dies by his lyrics. He wants everyone to hear them and if someone doesn’t like them, Meloy hopes pirates steal that person away in the night, leave him stranded on an ocean island and come back to find his bones picked clean by sand crabs. Seriously. With songs about pirates, hooker mothers, and streams of consciousness, Meloy’s lyrics are a little different than the average heart break/pissed off tirades. The only other band to plant the indie flag where Meloy has is Neutral Milk Hotel. The Decemberists are poppier and slightly less dramatic than their biggest influence, but Meloy’s and Jeff Mangum’s voices are so similar I had to check the liner notes the first time I heard Castaways and Cutouts. Let Meloy be the lost, one-legged, elementary school friend who is heart breaking. Sometimes the pain has to be felt to be understood.
2004 “The Tain” EP (Acuarela)
2003 “Castaways and Cutouts” (Kill Rock Stars)
2003 “Her Majesty the Decemberists” (Kill Rock Stars)
2003 “5 Songs” EP (Hush)
2002 “Castaways and Cutouts” (Hush)