» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Kill Rock Stars

Rating: 9/10 ?

March 22, 2005
Picaresque: Of or relating to a genre of usually satiric prose fiction, originating in Spain and depicting in realistic, often humorous detail the adventures of a roguish hero of low social degree living by his or her wits in a corrupt society.

I couldn't think of a better title for a collection of songs penned by Colin Meloy and the Decemberists. The filthy world of yore filled with various urchins, all of whom have a story to share, has never been fleshed out the way the Decemberists does.

Ye Olde gang is back together again, with added members and larger scopes. Engineered by Mr. Chris Walla in an old Baptist church (or former Baptist church), Picaresque leads the listener through worlds filled with deception, revenge, the loss of innocence and love, sweet, sweet love.

Anyone who is somewhat familiar with the Decemberists knows how grandiose each yarn spun is. Singer/Songwriter Colin Meloy is a natural born storyteller with enough charm and personality to strip the paint off cat house, but this album seems far too vibrant to have been done by him alone.

With the exception of The Tain EP, Decemberists albums have felt as though Mr. Meloy has been alone in the creation of each song. I'm not certain if this was the case - and the band has always played and recorded the songs exceedingly well - but as far as the creation of the songs, they have seemed a specific way each time… the way Colin Meloy intended.

However, with The Tain, former drummer Rachel Blumburg added a verse and lead vocals to a portion of the five-part single, swinging the creative doors wide open. This caused a get-along gang effect. The band worked together as a whole - not under the direction of one set of ears - with great beauty. This is not to say the previous releases weren't beautiful as well, just different.

The get-along trend seems to have continued with Picaresque, as the majority of songs don't seem as specific or single-minded, yet tell stories all too similar in style; this is the work of a complete team - a new feat for the Decemberists.

A few of the tracks have been in their pocket for a while ("The Infanta", "16 Military Wives") and sound great as full studio recordings, but in comparison, the standout tracks on this release are almost epic.

"We Both Go Down Together" is similar to "Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect" from Castaways & Cutouts in style and tone, but the instrumentation is what makes it stand out. String plucking, violin (thanks to new full-time member Petra Hayden) and the strong backing vocals are what give this song new and beautiful legs.

The upbeat, "Lust for Life" drumbeat of "The Sporting Life" provides the happiest sounding song about defeat you've heard since Her Majesty's "Billy Liar". But the greatest work on this album is the full out epic, "The Mariner's Revenge Song." Close to nine minutes of perfect Decemberistness, this tale of revenge belongs in the book of sea-fairing Edgar Allen Poe tales. I wouldn't be out of line if I called this a perfect song for this folksy, storytelling group of songwriters.

It's amazing to see how the Decemberists have grown. The songs from their first EP, 5 Songs, seem like a man and an acoustic guitar, where Picaresque feels like a full blown orchestra. Very beautiful, very dynamic, very Decemberists...

Reviewed by Bob Ladewig
Having been introduced to good music by his sister in the early years, Bob Ladewig has been searching out all the best in indie music ever since. He also rides a skateboard and performs/directs comedy shows and, like all great men, he\'s afraid of really growing up.

See other reviews by Bob Ladewig



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