The Decemberists

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Since I’m still a Twitter hold-out I was a little behind on this, but have you heard of @discographies?? He reduces entire musical careers to 140 characters or less, and he’s kind of amazing at it. Here’s some favorites:

The Decemberists: 1-3 “Wand’ring wide, we sailed our tales…” 4-5 “…o’er the topographic ocean.” 6 “Safely home, we commenced to jangle.”

Kanye West: 1-3 “I was a good student.” 4 “But after graduation, I got depressed.” 5 “All I did was surf the web and listen to Meat Loaf.”

Weezer: 1 “Remember that nerdy guy from high school?” 2 “The one who couldn’t talk to girls?” 3-7 “Why are you still hanging out with him?”

Green Day: 1-2 “Retro-punk 4ever, dude! We’ll never sell out or slow down or write rock operas!” 3 Sell out. 4-6 Slowdown. 7-8 Rock operas.

LCD Soundsystem: 1 “Music about other music…”; 2 “…acquires unexpected resonance…”; 3 “…if you explain the trick and then vanish.”

Check it out.

UPDATE: I just read an interview with the anonymous writer of @discographies, wherein he says this, the most true thing I’ve ever read about modern music consumption:

“Since we’re now at a point where it costs virtually nothing to acquire and store someone’s life work the one truly valuable commodity that still surrounds music consumption is the expenditure of time necessary to hear all the stuff you’ve downloaded. If [a] hypothetical 15 year old has just BitTorrented Neil Young’s entire corpus of work onto her computer, she’ll probably be a lot happier if the first album she plays isn’t Old Ways, but who’s going to tell her that? That’s where I see @Discographies as having real utility above and beyond whatever entertainment value it may possess. If I can steer just one person away from This Note’s For You and towards Tonight’s The Night, it will all have been worthwhile.”

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First and foremost, The King is Dead is nothing like The Hazards of Love.

Though I doubt any of us assumed The Decemberists would continue creating one rock opera after another, I certainly wasn’t expecting the laid-back country-folk record that sits in front of me now.

That being said, they still nailed it. The King is Dead is fantastic. Dispensing with any higher concept to the album or narratives that carry on across multiple tracks The Decemberists crafted a more traditional album of stand-alone songs. Its really as simple as The Decemberists get. (Which isn’t always that simple, ’cause higher concepts aside, Colin Meloy still peppers his lyrics with five-dollar words.) (Note: I love that about him.)

I’m tempted to say that the first track, “Don’t Carry It All”, is the true standout amongst an altogether brilliant album. The opening harmonica riff and Meloy’s strong voice start the album off on an almost unmatchable high. But the energy just keeps going from there with powerhouse songs like “Down By the Water” and the anthemic “This Is Why We Fight”.

“Rox In the Box” feels the most familiar and akin to past Decemberist songs. You are immediately transported to a distinct period of history, so although the lyrics remain ambiguous, the music makes it very clear where and when you are. Its like a musical time-machine.

Now I was tempted to claim “Don’t Carry It All” as the standout, but I’ve got to say the standout song is actually two songs. (Twist!)  “January Hymn” and “June Hymn” or, as I’m calling them, the Hymn Suite. Both songs deal with their respective seasons. One a tribute to the cold snow-laden winter and another to the rebirth and warmth of summer.

mp3: The Decemberists – January Hymn
from the album The King is Dead (buy it here)

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My computer couldn’t have picked a better time to start functioning again. Just in time to stream The Decemberists’ The King is Dead. Well done little laptop, well done.

A full review is likely to follow the release of the album on January 18th, so in the meantime just sit back, listen, and maybe think about pledging a couple bucks to NPR. Gotta love those guys.

Stream The King is Dead here.

mp3: The Decemberists – Down by the Water
from the album The King is Dead (pre-order)

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To get ready for the All Hallow’s weekend here’s a playlist of what we think are genuinely creepy songs. With only a few exceptions, they’re mostly low-key acoustic songs, the kind you might hear around a campfire, somewhere far out in the woods. Only a couple deal with “monsters” per say (one mummy and one vampire, respectively), the rest are centered around the real-life kind of monsters – bloodthirsty sociopaths on hellish road-trips, spurned-lovers who become violently unhinged, and nightmarish butchers who come for your children in the night. A lot of the tunes are pretty, but if you listen close, these songs will keep you up at night…

mp3: Elliott Smith – Son of Sam

mp3: Blitzen Trapper – Black River Killer

mp3: The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song

mp3: Mason Jennings – Jackson Square

mp3: Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

mp3: Josh Ritter – The Curse

mp3: Joshua James – Farmer From The West

mp3: Sufjan Stevens – John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

mp3: A.A. Bondy – Oh The Vampyre

mp3: Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone

mp3: Kings of Leon – Joe’s Head

mp3: Okkervil River – For Real

mp3: The Decemberists – Shankill Butchers

mp3: Mason Jennings – Isabella Part II

mp3: Sun Kil Moon – Glenn Tipton

Also, on a less creepy note, here’s a Halloween-themed video for Jeremy Messersmith’s quite beautiful “A Girl, A Boy, and a Graveyard”. Happy Halloween!

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2009 Top 25Well it’s that time again. It’s been a good year in music for sure – so much so that we’ve bumped our list up to 25 albums this time around, and even then we were having to painfully cut out some clearly great records.

Remember, this list represents our favorite albums of the year, not necessarily the best albums of the year. If we had to pick what we thought were the very best albums critically, this would probably be a very different list. But we’re no critics, so that’s not what we’re going to do. These are simply our very favorite albums of the year – the ones that made us laugh, cry, dance, smile, press repeat, wet our pants, etc. This is what we’ll remember when we look back on 2009.

Here we go:

Read the rest of this entry »

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