So I’m back again with another review after a couple of weeks away but as you know, I’m always looking for great music, from new releases to the classics I’ve never heard before. So this time I’m looking at the American Indie rock band from Portland, Oregon called The Decemberists and their new album titled I’ll Be Your Girl.
It was released on March 16 via Capitol Records, and produced by John Congleton, who has worked with the band before and has worked with well-known groups like Future Islands and St. Vincent.
From hearing this band for the first time, I love how the acoustic instrumentation is the main lead of most of the songs, as well as the nice synth melodies that mix together and produce a really interesting and fun listen. The band also have an old folk feel to their music with rock elements, such that you don’t know what will happen next on each song, which is great.
So we begin with “Once In My Life” which really sets out the format of their song style, with the song starting out as a nice acoustic chord progression, which to be fair, is the reason I was drawn to this album. Then we get a nice mix of synths that aren’t overused and turn out to be the real highlight of this song. With lyrics such as “oh for once in my life, could something go right“, it has a simple theme to understand, but is a fun song to listen to.
We get a song which tries harder to make you think than the first song, with “Cutting Stone“, which at first does has an old folk feeling with lead singer Colin Meloy singing over just acoustic music, which gets add-ons of synths melodies that are slower building than the previous song.
The song features lyrics such as “all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail” and leans towards possible criticism of United States foreign policy and overseas military campaigns but you wouldn’t have known it. With the lyrics and the instrumentation, the song really stays with you.
We get a really tone and style swift with “Severed“, which feels like a dance track you would listen to in a silent disco but in a good way. With the synths and bass really driving this song home, the track has a really cool 80s feel going on. But with a political overtone to it once again, with Trump and the way he acts and speaks, being the subject of the track.
Colin says about the song, “just sort of exploring that tone of voice that he was taking, The character in the song, the first-person character, is a demagogue, absolutely, so it was an exploration of what is demagoguery, and where does it come from?” However, it’s really fun song and I love the description of the song, with the band calling it an “apocalyptic dance party” which is a perfect description.
“Starwatcher” is a pretty cool track, which, as Colin says, looks into “psychedelic prophets looking in at our current predicament and not only signaling warning but also calling for resistance and hope!“. It is an interesting theme, with Colin looking for hope in our darkest times. Sonically, the song is in a similar tone to the rest of the album, with just acoustics to start and the synths and drums coming in – the song is a joy and one of the highlights.
On “Tripping Along“, we just get guitar and vocals, with nice synths overtone which really hits home with the song being about just getting by every day. Lines such as “but your relatives gathered all clamber about for your mind, And they’re tearing and swearing to leave you all naked and blind“, really put this across, while sonically, it really calms everything down before the upbeat tone of the next track.
“Your Ghost” takes the album in a different direction, with the track going for a dance party viral sound at a beach party, but for some reason, maybe it’s the drum patterns, when listening to it, the song made me think of “Knights Of Cydonia” from Muse, which is pretty cool and for that alone, you should check out this song.
“Everything Is Awful” has a similar layout to the album’s opening track, with the instrumentation and lyrics. The title line “everything is awful” is repeated many times with nice harmonies overlaying it. The refrain really works well and when used on this album, it adds value and I wish they used it more, but it is another good addition.
On “Sucker’s Prayer“, the band slow it down with a nice country vibe, and some weird guitar tones in the bridge really make the track stand out. With the song being about being alone and it getting to you, listeners can definitely relate to it, with a lot of people going through this at some point in time.
“We All Die Young” looks deep in to death, with Colin talking about how we never feel like we have enough time in life, or to complete our live goal. This can be heard with the chorus, “we all die young“, over the weirdly upbeat instrumentation, which is always good when trying to get a message across.
“Rusalka, Rusalka/Wild Rushes” continues a track record of long(er) tracks in the tail end of albums, but this really is a joy with both parts of the song looking into a story of a man being seduced by a godlike woman that draws him to drown in the sea. “Rusalka, Rusalka” starts out as a piano piece which grows into something epic, while “Wild Rushes” goes acoustic and has an old folk sound, like the singer is telling the tale, and is, by far, the best song on the album.
The album ends with the title track “I’ll Be Your Girl“, which is a nice slow folk acoustic track, and a nice way to end the record. It is a twist on a gendered rock track, with a funny and interesting idea of a guy singing “I’ll be your girl“, and it ends the album with a bit of fun.
Overall, I think this is my new favourite album so far this year. With the nice mix of rock, folk and synths, the album really works and has a 60s feel, with a nice twist, which is nice to hear these days. From this record, I am now a fan of The Decemberists and can’t wait to see what the band does next. My favorite tracks are “Severed”, “Your Ghost” and “Rusalka, Rusalka/Wild Rushes”.
Purchase The Decemberists’ I’ll Be Your Girl on iTunes here, and stream it below.
Words by Stuart Irvine