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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Artist of the Day: The Decemberists


The Decemberists are like a traveling troupe of instrument-playing, warbly-voice-having historians. Drawing inspiration from centuries past, this group has a unique musical style that is both fresh and dusty - dusty like your great-grandmother's attic. Even their name is a throwback; it references the Russian Decemberist Revolt of 1825.

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, the Decemberists are not your run-of-the-mill northwestern indie folksters.  Their songwriting style tends toward epic storytelling, often referencing historical events from all corners of the globe. Listening to one of their albums is like being in world history class, except the teachers play the accordion and organs and wear funny clothes. Their sound and lyrical influences have a broad spectrum.  They can go from a nearly 10-minute-long wandering instrumental tune ("California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade") to a short and poppy three minute tune ("July, July!") all on one album (Castaways and Cutouts).

After their formation in 2000, The Decemberists released an EP entitled 5 Songs in 2001, followed by their first full-length studio album, Castaways and Cutouts, in 2002. In March 2005, they released a self-produced video for their song "16 Military Wives" from the album Picaresque; the video garnered some much-deserved attention for the quintet. 

With each new album they release, The Decemberists pick up more steam. Their 2006 release The Crane Wife - their first major label record - was voted NPR listeners' favorite album of 2006.  Their latest offering, Hazards of Love, weaves a tale of love, shape-shifters, evil rakes and more through its 17 tracks. "Rolling Stone" describes Hazards as an "old–fashioned prog concept record," inspired by the 1960s British folk movement. That's quite a description and it is quite an album.

From 1820s Russia to 1960s Great Britain and everywhere inbetween -  who knows where The Decemberists will go next.

The Decemberists are currently on tour, and their show hits the Classic Center in Athens on September 26th.

Who’s Who: Colin Meloy (vocals), Chris Funk (guitar, multi-instrumentalist), Jenny Conlee (Hammond organ, accordion, melodica, piano, keyboards), Nate Query (bass guitar, string bass), John Moen (drums, vocals, melodica)
Formed: 2000
Label: Capitol
Latest Release: The Hazards of Love (2009)
On the web:

-Kristen Callihan
currently listening to "The Legionnaire's Lament" by The Decemberists

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