March 14, 2018 The Decemberists – I’ll Be Your Girl (Album Review)
In the late 1990s to the 2000s, the Indie music world had seen a slew of bands whose musical palette was broad and expansive, drawing influences from a diversity of styles encompassing Folk, Baroque Pop, New Wave, Alternative Rock, and Progressive Rock. These exciting bands included Belle and Sebastian (“I Want the World to Stop”), The Divine Comedy (“National Express”), The High Llamas (“Nomads”), Death Cab for Cutie (“Death of an Interior Decorator”), Arcade Fire (“City with No Children”), and yes, the subject of our review – The Decemberists.
Formed in 2000, in Portland, Oregon, United States, The Decemberists have released seven studio albums—from 2002’s Castaways and Cutouts to 2015’s What a Beautiful World, What a Terrible World. Now, three years after, the eclectic band is unleashing another collection of well-crafted songs.
Slated for release on Friday, March 16, 2018, through Capitol Records in the U.S. and on Rough Trade in Europe, The Decemberists’ eighth studio album, titled I’ll Be Your Girl, is a much looser affair, yet engaging as ever, than its predecessors. It opens with the feel-good, graceful strums and rhythm, initially acoustic but ultimately full sound of the introspective “Once in My Life.” The following “Cutting Stone” then takes the listener to a trek to the rustic rustles of late ’60s British Folk but onboard the contemporary flourishes of contemporary Synthpop. The synthesizer melody flows smoothly into the ensuing “Severed,” which exudes faint echoes of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom.”
“Starwatcher” and “Tripping Along” then return the album to its overall Pastoral Folk sensibilities, reminiscent of the late ’60s Psychedelic Folk songs of Incredible String Band (“The Half-Remarkable Question”). The upbeat and Mariachi-inspired “Your Ghost” then rolls next like a tribe of headless horsemen. Then there is the playful and tuneful “Everything Is Awful,” whose ornate vocal harmony as well as its lyrical sentiment harks back to the album’s predecessor.
Another trip down memory lane, the piano-dominated “Sucker’s Prayer” vibes off ’70s Pop Rock mid-tempo balladry in the veins of Elton John (“Rocket Man”) and Billy Joel (“Piano Man”) with a hint of the Glam Metal of Bon Jovi (“I’ll Be There for You”), whereas the following “We All Die Young” is a bit Rock-n-Roll, complete with a horn interlude.
The penultimate track, “Rusalka Rusalka/Wild Rushes” starts as a somber piano song, almost a dirge; and then builds up into a string-woven, countryside Pastoral/Appalachian/Gospel epic that pours gracefully yet imposingly like a rain of roses in sweet November. Finally, The Decemberists wrap up I’ll Be Your Girl with the Folk-glazed, Baroque Pop beauty such as the title track.
Among the aforementioned Indie Rock bands that began to make their splash in the previous decade, The Decemberists proved to be one of the most daring and adventurous, constantly exploring whatever form or medium they could use to express their musical ideas with. Their latest offering, I’ll Be Your Girl, illustrates once again how literarily literate, musically adept, and stylistically diverse Vocalist/Guitarist/Principal Songwriter Colin Meloy are and his comrades—Chris Funk (guitar, other instruments), Jenny Conlee (piano, keyboards), Nate Query (bass), and John Moen (drums); and how in control they are in steering their music in whichever direction they want it to go or deem it necessary to take. CrypticRock gives I’ll Be Your Girl 4 out of 5 stars.