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The Decemberists - Castaways And Cutouts CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

3.58 | 65 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars THE DECEMBERISTS began their indie rock career in Portland, Oregon and gained attention with their lyrical focus on historical incidents and folklore as well as combining the musical elements of chamber folk, indie pop, baroque pop and rock. Their style sensibilities can be traced back to the 60s British folk acts like Fairport Convention and the Fairport Convention with a healthy cross-pollination of the indie rock and newer contemporary folk acts ranging from Modest Mouse to The Postal Service and even alt-country acts such as Uncle Tupelo. The music can range from upbeat and even guitar heavy progressive pop to country tinged lush ballads. Their debut release CASTAWAYS AND CUTOUTS is a vocal led journey written by vocalist Colin Moloy's who narrates the tales of the CASTAWAYS of the world such as Spanish gypsies and Turkish prostitutes.

One of the greatest assets of THE DECEMBERISTS is the fact that their music is so diverse. While mainly led by Meloy who is the lead singer, guitarist and chief songwriter, there is also a heavy presence of keyboards by Jenny Conlee who employs ample uses of Hammond organ, accordion, rhodes piano and other synthesized effects. Also on the team is percussionist Ezra Holbrook, Nate Query on upright bass and Chris Funk who adds additional guitar parts including the pedal steel and occasional theremin. All of the these unique instruments add interesting atmospheres and crossover genre styles that give THE DECEMBERISTS their own unique sound. The differences between songs is quite pronounced. While "Grace Cathedral Hill" is more of a sorrowful tale of lament that is a lush country ballad, "The Legionnaire's Lament" is an upbeat pop rock track that utilizes distorted ska guitar techniques, energetic accordion, bass and drum interaction and a extra catchy pop hook.

CASTAWAYS AND CUTOUTS made an immediate impression and accumulated an instant fan base and the band found a unique niche that has been compared (unfairly) to Neutral Milk Hotel although as with any folk oriented bands, similarities can be heard. Although the debut is a much more stripped down affair from the second album on where the band would include more guest musicians adding a more extensive range of sounds, CASTAWAYS AND CUTOUTS focuses more on the strong songwriting and inventive genre fusion techniques led by Meloy. While not as popular as albums such as "The Crane Wife" or "The Hazards Of Love," the debut is a decent album in its own right with a stronger roots oriented feel to it. While i have to admit that Meloy's idiosyncratic vocal style that seems equidistant between country and folk with a little mopey indie rock thrown in for good measure, it ultimately has won me over and fits the mournful saddened feel of the album.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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