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The Decemberists - Castaways And Cutouts CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

3.58 | 65 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars "I've heard of Ghosts..good ghosts, who wonder the battle field at night..guiding solders out of danger.." I found this little gem in a used record store and, being the Decemberists fan that I am, had to pick it up. I was not disappointed.

They took my favorite moments of 'Her Majesty' and 'The Crain Wife' and put it on this album. True, this is the first album of the Decemberists, it gives a great taste at what's to come in their later albums. Although, there seems to be stronger points on this album then there are on the other two (I've yet to pick up's on my Christmas wish list).

The album starts off with a kick, a beautiful acoustic guitar cord that penetrates your skin, the lovely 'Leslie Anne Levine'. A sorrow song of a child who died before ever getting the chance to live and having to live as a ghost with her dead mother..yeah, apparently the mom died too. Quite the contrast of sad lyrics and happy tunes.

The next two songs 'Here I Dreamt I was an Architect' and 'July, July!' are the two low points on the album. The music is quite simplistic and really doesn't do anything for me. They're not bad songs...but compared to the rest of the album, they're weaker.

We then go into a lovely little tail about what happens while you're asleep. You have to love a song with morals eh? It reminds me of 'the Shankill Butchers' from The Crain Wife, and a part in 'The Mariner's Revenge Song' in that the song is very simplistic in its music, with just a guitar, accordion and kennel drum. Quite an enjoyable song, even if the lyrics and story behind the music is a bit disturbing.

Now we enter the better part of the album. From 'Odalisque' on, the album is pure gold. This sounds like the prequel to 'Islands' from The Crain Wife. The concept of the two songs are very similar, both involving a crime. I love how this song goes through quite a few changes. That's progressive music that I like to hear. They manage to take the song one step further and really explore the sound. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, just from the fact that it's willing to explore different arias of the music, and see how far they can take the song.

From that power house song, we go to a very calming and soothing 'Cocoon'. Usually I'm not a big fan of 'slow' songs..but this one is preformed very well. It's a slow song with power. It has some very deep feelings in it. At one point of the song, I'm very tempted to sing along, but substitute what's being sung by Colin to 'Hello Victoria, so glad to see you, my friend.'.Am I the only one that does this? It's the same tune, but what a beautiful tune it is.

'Grave Cathedral Hill' is another slower song, but this one is very soothing. It doesn't have the same powerful darkness that 'Cocoon' does, but instead has a mellow happy feeling to it. One of The Decemberists talents of creating songs that will pick you up no matter how down you are. A really great song.

'The Legionnaire's Lament' picks up the pace from the past two songs, but does so in a way that doesn't make the listener jump out of their seat. It would be more of a weaker song, like 'Here I Dreamt I was an Architect' and 'July, July!', had it not been for it's catchy tune, similar to that of 'Leslie Anne Levine', and has a section in the choirs that sounds very similar to 'Shanty for the Arethusa' from Her Majesty.

'Clementine' sounds like a David Gilmour suit, at least within the first few notes of the song with the guitar and syth. Again, the band plays very softly, but unlike the last two softer, slower songs, this one is sweet and soothing; lying on the grass with a loved one by your side kind of song.

Ah, the crème de la crème, the piece de résistance. THE song of the album: California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade. In my opinion, this is the best Decemberists song written to date. It takes all the things that made the album's previous songs so great, and combined it all into one song. It starts off soft, setting the foundation of the song. It feels as though you're on a drive through the country side. It has a nice rhythmic section that moves you. It takes the powerful soft feeling that 'Cocoon' built and put it to a sweet spin that 'Clementine' had. The integration of the sounds is flawless. The song also changes and develops as did 'Odalisque'. It allows the song to explore different domains of sounds and it feels as though the song is looking for the right spot to continue. It slowly gets closer and closer to were it wants to go, and the place we find ourselves is beautiful. This is what more songs need to have, the ability to take the music that one step further. Just when you think the song raps up, it goes that one extra step which a lot of songs don't do. I'm glad they decided to take that one more step.

So, to rap this overly long review up, I'm giving this album a solid four stars. If I didn't want to skip over 'Here I Dreamt I was an Architect' and 'July, July!' each time I play the album, it would have qualified for a masterpiece. But as it is, it will gain what the other two albums that I own of The Decemberists have gained: Four stars, even though this is their best piece.

"If I were such a Ghost..I would stay so close to you..You would feel my breath on your cheek."

mothershabooboo | 4/5 |


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