The Decemberists Change Direction And It Sounds Good

For fifteen years The Decemberists have been the thinking person’s go-to Folk/Pop ensemble. The Portland quintet has resembled something like a 21st century American version of the late-Sixties British Folk Rock pioneers Fairport Convention, combining intelligent and literate songwriting with an array of different traditional and modern folk idioms using both male and female voices.

The band’s front man Colin Meloy may have an unusual goat-like voice, and his lyrics are sometimes a little too English-major smart, but he’s got a great ear and a fine sense of songcraft and you can tell he is well-versed in Rock history. In a press release announcing the band’s upcoming eighth album I’ll Be Your Girl, Meloy said that the band decided to exploit some different Rock influences for the new record.

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He felt that the band played it too safe on their last album, and he wanted to move out of their familiar Folk Pop comfort zone. The direction they decided to move in comes as a bit of a surprise:

We were talking about music and our references. It kept coming back to Roxy Music and early glam, and we dove in with that in mind. The Decemberists are a record-collectors’ band, we’re all fans and scholars of music, so there a lot of touch points that we all get, but they don’t always come through. So we were trying to embrace that Bryan Ferry aspect, that kind of set the tone.

You can certainly hear that Roxy Music feel – “exuberant nihilism” Meloy calls it – on the first single to be released from the album, “Severed”. It’s for sure a big departure for the band. You got synth beats running throughout, and by golly you’ve got big crunchy guitar chords in a Decemberists song for the first time ever. Throw in a typically smart and ominous lyric and I think they’ve got something really interesting going on here. Full marks to Meloy for having the courage to change things up so drastically. I’ll Be Your Girl hits the shelves on March 16.

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