– By Gabe Straight –
Anyone who knows folk rock knows The Decemberists. Arguably the most iconic group in the genre. The Portland ensemble has created a plethora of hits since their 2001 debut. Longtime fans love them for their wide range of instruments and vocalist Colin Meloy’s lyrics that liken him to a walking thesaurus. Whether it’s the epic Hazards of Love, the down to earth Castaways and Cutouts, or the singalong-heavy Picaresque, The Decemberists have yet to release a bad album. As it turns out, the group’s latest effort I’ll Be Your Girl, is no exception.
The Decemberists manage to keep to their strengths and at the same time tread in a new direction.
All in a day’s work for the walking thesaurus and his musical friends.
The album starts off with “Once in My Life”. As it starts, it seems like an ordinary Decemberists hit – solo guitar, Colin Meloy’s dominating voice – nothing seems out of the ordinary. Just when things get comfortable, the band comes in. Harmonies fill out the empty space, but that’s not all. Like many others in the last few years, Stranger Things must’ve left a huge impact on The Decemberists. “Once in My Life” becomes filled with heavy, synth 80s-inspired keys.
The synth continues on the next song “Cutting Stone,” and other later songs like the title track. Parts the synth play take a similar role to the parts the accordion would play in the Decemberists’ other hits.
One of the trends on I’ll Be Your Girl is taking a line and stretching it out, slowly growing on it. “Once in My Life,” “We All Die Young,” “Everything is Awful,” and others take this kind of approach.
One little line is repeated over and over.
As it goes on, more instruments get involved, the harmonies get larger, and the tone gets more passionate. The continued growth of the songs makes I’ll Be Your Girl a joy to listen to. While the melodies have a triumphant flair to them, they clash un-ironically with lyrics like “I wanna love somebody, but I don’t know how” and “Everything is awful” (the title and the chorus).
Major highlights on the album are “Everything is Awful” and “Sucker’s Prayer.” “Everything is Awful” features one of the best choruses, and “Sucker’s Prayer” sounds like a nod “Don’t Let Me Down” by the Beatles. The song “Wild Rushes” also follows this direction: steady, bluesy, with a clear influence from songs like, well, The Beatles hit “Don’t Let Me Down.”
There is close to nothing lacking in this album.
The lyrics are sharp and intuitive as always. The band takes steps in a new direction, and the arrangements have a sincere passion to them. Longtime fans will not be disappointed. And newcomers will find a great introduction to the Decemberists in I’ll Be Your Girl.