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Posts Tagged ‘The Decemberists’

50. Eagles of Death Metal – Anything ‘Cept The Truth

Palm Beach-based Eagles of Death Metal, despite what Axl Rose might say, have paid proper respect to the almighty desert rock groove. Sometimes light-headed, mindlessly rhythmic rock music is what the soul craves. This track from NHL 10’s soundtrack is just that.

49. Gypsy Soul – Wicked Game

I have felt guilty about liking Chris Isaac’s original version as much as I used to. California-based Celtic pop band Gypsy Soul, with their singer Cilette Swann coaxing the melody to travel to a far more ethereal place, makes me feel cool again.

48. Iggy Pop – King Of The Dogs

Iggy Pop has reinvented himself in a sensibly drunken way. The Godfather of Punk went eclectic jazz and lounge pop in his latest album Préliminaires, shining like a mad friggin diamond on this track. I can’t help but wonder if the meeting with Tom Waits in Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes had something to do with this.

47. Aimee Mann – One Is The Loneliest Number

Not since Bjork’s All Is Full of Love has a woman’s voice had me feeling this giddy and diffident at once. You might have heard her during one of those wonderfully screwed up sequences in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. I heart Aimee Mann.

46. Colin Meloy – Summertime

I have a very high regard for the music of The Decemberists; Colin Meloy’s their singer and songwriter, and a very fine one at that. A million artists have covered George Gershwin’s Summertime but a nay a musician in recent years has done it with such style and restrained grace.

45. KlaxonsNo Diggity

It’s scary how good Klaxons were in conducting this experiment in weirdness. Blackstreet & Dr Dre dare not complain; these London-based new wave poppers have done them proud, with an insanely catchy cover that has no business sounding as good as it does.

44. Mos Dub – Ms Vampire Booty

Max Tannone’s remix project lets Mos Def’s badass verbosity loose on the dancefloor with some funky reggae sampling to keep it company. The killer snares behind acapella vocals dare you to sit still.

43. Circa Survive – Spirit Of The Stairwell

Pennsylvania-based Circa Survive makes common music with uncommon talent. Their brand of lo-fi acoustic music isn’t going to win you over with originality, but the altruistically dreamy psychedelia of tracks like this one will whip your ears into soulful frenzy. Check out their 2010 album Blue Sky Noise.

42. Cold War Kids – Electioneering

This isn’t if for everyone, kiddies. Amongst all the tracks on the OKX album, Stereogum’s tribute to Radiohead’s 1997 masterpiece, the Cold War Kids’ cover is probably the boldest. The militant thumping of percussions, along with Nathan Willett’s dry-throated call for political compromises, takes me back to the first time I heard APC’s Counting Bodies Like Sheep.

41. Josh Homme & PJ Harvey – Powdered Wig Machine

Josh Homme’s decade-long pet project – Desert Sessions – has him collaborating with the coolest musicians from the vastly underrated Palm Desert Scene. PJ Harvey brings sultriness back with the ferocity of a she-wolf in heat, seducing, howling, “Come on, come to me”; very, very sexy.

40. The Constellations – A Perfect Day

I get misty-eyed whenever heavy slabs of soul are injected into the veins of straight-up rock music. Little Richard spawned it. The Beatles stole it. The Rolling Stones lost it. Coldplay and Maroon 5 almost screwed it all up. Now The Constellations have resurrected it on their Southern Gothic album. If only their songwriting improved, they’d be a force to reckon with.

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the_decemberists

Some bands deserve more than just a paltry mention. So let me start over again…Portland indie rockers The Decemberists make fantastic music that pauses every 20 seconds to consider metamorphosing into something more menacing. Sometimes it does and with sound and fury, gnashing its teeth and escaping most clichés; and sometimes it doesn’t, but stays just as captivating, with its affinity for ethereal lovemaking over a lush soundscape.

Colin Meloy, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, Nate Query and John Moen christened themselves as The Decemberists in 2000, having shared an equal fondness and fascination for the Decembrist uprising in Russia and fellow indie bands – Norfolk and Western, Camera Obscura, Long Winters and The Shins. While their music does bear similarities to their influences, it really does elevate itself by constantly evolving.

hazards of love

After a slew of mostly acoustic, accordion-based tracks and the erstwhile foray into 12-string guitar madness on their previous albums, The Decemberists have now tackled hard rock opera to the ground with dissonant ease. Their 2009 album The Hazards Of Love is the bastard child of The Who’s Tommy and the cult-tastic Neutral Milk Hotel’s  In the Aeroplane Over the Sea album. As we know, when storytelling meets clever chord progressions, music shakes it little butt and struts off into the sunset, looking prettier and more seductive than ever before.

The album recites a haunting story of a woman named Margaret who “falls in love with a shape-shifting boreal forest dweller named William.” The villains – a jealous forest queen and an ensemble of unruly characters – bring gnarly darkness to the story and appropriately make for the brightest moments.

becky

The sonic horizon of The Hazards Of Love also seems broader than ever, with gorgeous vocal performances by Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. Bless these angels for reaffirming my faith (and another friend of mine) in female-fronted alternative rock music. Not often has this genre seen the species do it justice. “The Queen’s Rebuke” is a glorious testament to the oestrogen-fuelled awesomeness.

shara worden

Imagine, a deliciously modern twist of a Led Zeppelin’s The Battle of Evermore, with Robert Plant replaced by a pissed off Patti Smith; and I mean, raging, frothing and restrained all at once. As a thunderous riff rides on the spine of ethereal backing vocals, Shara Worden croons, “And you have removed this temptation that’s troubled my innocent child, To abduct and abuse and to render her rift and defiled. But the river is deep to the banks and the water is wild. But I will fly you to the far side” and lets you go to sleep, dreaming about great tree monsters preaching to a congregation of lepers and deaf children, but that’s just me. And Jenny Conlee is insanely great as the keyboardist. I would love to hear these guys cover Light My Fire just to see Conlee rip into that organ sound.

decemberists

The mesmerizing The Hazards of Love 3 features an eerie harpsichord tune performed by a children’s choir. I have been gorging myself on it for over a week now and it has become a prelude for most of my daily chores. I don’t what it is but there’s something appealing about angelic vocals singing, “Father I’m not feeling well, must be the flowers you fed, they tasted spoiled for suddenly I find that I am dead. But father don’t you fear, your children all are here, singing ohhhh, the hazards of love” while I procrastinate about deadlines at work. Oh, and I am almost sure that many cute instruments were injured during the making of this track.

Matter of fact, many silly theories about indie music have been knocked the fuck out after the release of Hazards Of Love. The Decemberists have done their bit to fade to black the pretentions and egomaniacal jackass-ery of the genre and its tendency to fall in love with itself.

Stand up, kindly sirs and sisters of indie rock, and be proud…if the world ignores you any longer, it is only to preserve your rare gift for creating beauty in silence and to a chosen crowd of those who either shake a fist or shed a tear at the current social and artistic dystopia.

Watch

The Decemberists – Queen’s Rebuke/The Crossing

The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love 3

The Decemberists – Isn’t It A Lovely Night?

The Decemberists – The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid

Buy

The Hazards Of Love

The Crane Wife

Inexpensive pet food

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A lot of great music has come and gone recently. In between writing those darn movie reviews and dealing with my Attention Deficit Disorder kicking into top gear, I have been finding it hard to pick out one track or one artist to showcase. So, here goes…a medley of tunes that I have accidentally stumbled upon for the past two weeks.

the-rootsThe Roots (featuring Jack Davey) – Atonement

Few rap outfits can make music with such polished elegance and yet remain comfortably perched outside the vicious wasteland of drunken stupour that is the mainstream hip hop scene. Backed by a lovely Radiohead sample (You And Whose Army), the Philadelphia-based crew drop a great beat that bring back placid memories of cloudy summers. The immensely talented Black Thought spits, “feelin the steam from the cauldron, with tension runnin deep as the ocean. many are called, but so few are chosen, as I go through the motions, of medication uppin my dosage,” as Jack Davey’s ethereal vocals leads the chorus into one of those battles that musicians wage to lull the listener into quiet slumber.

Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse and David Lynch – Dark Night Of The Soul

Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse is just one of those albums that dares you to seduce the night with sadness. The plodding title track sung by David Lynch caresses her in a way that might make the stars blush. It’s simple enough; a single piano-driven melody backed by ghostly vocals that mumble, “shadows of the dark night, daaaark night of the soulllll”. I expected Lynch to sound like a subdued C-grade Brett Michaels (don’t ask me why), but I’m glad he sounds like a poor man’s Cee Lo on sedatives.

the decemberistsThe Decemberists – The Wanting Comes In Waves

I have been wanting (self hi-fi in progress) to write about these indie blokes from Portland for quite some time now. In case you didn’t already know, The Decemberists have been tearing it up in the underground scene for a few years. They have been so critically-acclaimed that some say that their drummer craps star ratings after Sunday lunch. I think they sort of deserve it; I mean, very few indie rock bands can indulge in such stylistic grandeur without sounding pretentious. In the magnificently titled “The Wanting Comes In Waves”, they grab the natural progression of a folk song and throttle it until the choruses swear that Indie rock is their daddy. Suffocating and wondrous.

Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell – Come On Over

Kobayashi’s Shasta is no longer the greatest James Bond theme song that never was; this is! With the sound of violins gently crashing them, Mark Lanegan’s whiskey-coated vocals writhe all over Isobel Campbell’s totally sexy whisper as they sing in unison, “like a thief crawling through the night, like a drunk brawling in a fight…come on over, turn me on” If that wasn’t alluring enough, Come On Over frantically ups the pace by the end of the second verse by threatening to blossom into a full-blown Seventies psychedelic freak-out. Hell, Mark Lanegan would make for a groovy James Bond. He’ll save all those pretty women, their guitars and their souls.

dengue feverDengue Fever – Ethanopium

Los Angeles-based Dengue Fever have been known to fuse psychedelic rock with Cambodian pop and Khmer folk. Hmpf go figure. Organist extraordinaire Ethan Holtzman and his guitarist brother Zac Holtzman pay tribute to legendary Cambodian rock scene of the Seventies that briefly flourished before falling prey to Pol Pot’s infamous slaughtering of people and culture. The track Ethanopium is a fantastic cover of Ethiopian jazz guru Mulatu Astatke’s Yegelle Tezeta that reaches a glorious level once Ethan’s Farfisa organ starts to seductively growl. Turn off the air-conditioning please, you need to sweat while listening to this.

The Roots (featuring Jack Davey) – Atonement

Few rap outfits can make music with such polished elegance and yet remain comfortably perched outside the vicious wasteland of drunken stupour that is the mainstream hip hop scene. Backed by a lovely Radiohead sample (You And Whose Army), the Philadelphia-based crew drop a great beat that bring back placid memories of cloudy summers. The immensely talented Black Thought spits, “feelin the steam from the cauldron, with tension runnin deep as the ocean. many are called, but so few are chosen, as I go through the motions, of medication uppin my dosage,” as Jack Davey’s ethereal vocals leads the chorus into one of those battles that musicians wage to lull the listener into quiet slumber. Thank you, The Roots.

Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse and David Lynch – Dark Night Of The Soul

Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse is just one of those albums that dares you to seduce the night with sadness. The plodding title track sung by David Lynch caresses her in a way that might make the stars blush. It’s simple enough; a single piano-driven melody backed by ghostly vocals that mumble, “shadows of the dark night, daaaark night of the soulllll”. I expected Lynch to sound like a subdued C-grade Brett Michaels (don’t ask me why), but I’m glad he sounds like a poor man’s Cee Lo on sedatives.

The Decemberists – The Wanting Comes In Waves

I have been wanting (self hi-fi in progress) to write about these indie blokes from Portland for quite some time now. In case you didn’t already know, The Decemberists have been tearing it up in the underground scene for a few years. They have been so critically-acclaimed that some say that their drummer craps star ratings after Sunday lunch. I think they sort of deserve it; I mean, very few indie rock bands can indulge in such stylistic grandeur without sounding pretentious. In the magnificently titled “The Wanting Comes In Waves”, they grab the natural progression of a folk song and throttle it until the choruses swear that Indie rock is their daddy. Suffocating and wondrous.

Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell – Come On Over

Kobayashi’s Shasta is no longer the greatest James Bond theme song that never was; this is! With the sound of violins gently crashing them, Mark Lanegan’s whiskey-coated vocals writhe all over Isobel Campbell’s totally sexy whisper as they sing in unison, “like a thief crawling through the night, like a drunk brawling in a fight…come on over, turn me on” If that wasn’t alluring enough, Come On Over frantically ups the pace by the end of the second verse by threatening to blossom into a full-blown Seventies psychedelic freak-out. Hell, Mark Lanegan would make for a groovy James Bond. He’ll save all those pretty women, their guitars and their souls.

Dengue Fever – Ethanopium

Los Angeles-based Dengue Fever have been known to fuse psychedelic rock with Cambodian pop and Khmer folk. Hmpf go figure. Organist extraordinaire Ethan Holtzman and his guitarist brother Zac Holtzman pay tribute to legendary Cambodian rock scene of the Seventies that briefly flourished before falling prey to Pol Pot’s infamous slaughtering of people and culture. The track Ethanopium is a fantastic cover of Ethiopian jazz guru Mulatu Astatke’s Yegelle Tezeta that reaches a glorious level once Ethan’s Farfisa organ starts to seductively growl. Turn off the air-conditioning please, you need to sweat while listening to this.

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