Music has always been a major part of my life. From an early age I was exposed to every kind of music possible. From classical artists to Hard Rock to obscure bands, my Father would listen to them all and, with him, I did as well.
As I grew up and developed my own taste in music I have found specific albums that have stood out above the rest. Ones that I always go back to. These albums include classic artists like Neil Young to more modern ones like the one I am discussing today. So, without further ado, I present my first entry to my Stand Out Albums, Picaresque by The Decemberists.
Today’s featured Album:
Picaresque came out in March of 2005 under the Kill Rock Stars Label. Written by lead singer Colin Meloy, the album itself was named after a style of fiction that ‘depicts the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing hero’. It is an album that could be considered folk rock or indie rock but even that doesn’t do it justice. To me, it’s just good.
Being the third studio album in their discography, its clear the Decemberists had time to truly refine their craft. The album is polished and refined while still retaining any ‘grime’ required for their storytelling aesthetic. It consists of 11 songs, each one telling its own tale while all seemingly existing in the same dark world. The subjects range from tales of lust & loss to tales of the sea. All along Meloy’s vocals drive the narrative forward with an incredibly talented band of vagabonds accompanying him on his journey.
Why this album?
At the time of its release I had not heard of the band yet so it went unnoticed by me for the better part of the year. We had moved to a small east Texas town around that time where I worked as an assistant manager for a clothing store. After getting home one day, I sat at my computer to work on some short stories and went into my cd library to find something to listen to. Although I had quite the selection, nothing really sat right with me. I needed something new, something fresh.
I had recently become aware of a website called download.com which,at the time, had a segment dedicated to music. This was a place where bands could upload one or more tracks to allow new listeners a chance to discover them in a completely legal fashion. (No torrenting for me dammit!) This was still a fairly early time for digital music and, not being a fan of Apple products (sorry if you are one) I had recently purchased a Zune for my growing collection of mp3’s, so a site like this was ripe for exploring. (Yes. I had a Zune. So let’s let that go okay?) I dove in and found several tracks from a band called The Decemberists. I scanned through their bio and figured, why not?
Boy was I pleasantly surprised, this was indeed something new that I had not heard yet. Soon I realized I had to get more from them and I went out and bought their latest offering, Picaresque.
From the opening drums and howling (yes howling) to the songs about generational Engineers, it is an amazing ride. This album is dark and wonderful, light and lovely. It contains entire lifetimes distilled down to just a few minutes, each one more intriguing than the last. Needless to say, I had become a fan.
Even though they have released many more fantastic works after this album, I think Picaresque is their finest work.
The one that stands out the most has to be the tenth track on the album, entitled The Mariner’s Revenge Song. This song depicts the story of a young man as he is recounting his tale to another from within the belly of a whale. The story is one of tragedy and revenge and quite the tale. In fact, it is so intriguing it has inspired quite a few youtube animations including his clever animated comic by Artur Janz.
The other track I recommend is the third track entitled Eli, The Barrow Boy. This one tells the story of Eli and his love. Despite his every attempt he is never able to show her how much he loves her and continues to wish he could even in their deaths. It is a sad but sweet song.
Okay, where do I get It?
This album is available on CD, MP3, and Vinyl. It is even available via spotify should you have it. You can also pick it up at pretty much any music shop and I highly recommend it.
Here is a link to their official website where you can find just about everything you could want from them. http://www.decemberists.com/
This is cool, what else do they have?
They have many other albums. In addition to this one, I also recommend The Hazards of Love (2009) and one of their earlier works entitled The Tain. The Tain is a historical album that depicts the irish myth Táin Bó Cúailnge . It is quite good.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the first in what will hopefully become a series of blogs. If you like what you have read please take a look at some of my movie reviews as well, including a fun write up on the cult 80’s classic BeastMaster(http://wp.me/p93it6-oQ)
Late to The Game 9/30/17