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Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Indie Anthology 74: essential songs

For the next chapter of our Anthology, a very dear band of this humble blogger, and one of the finest examples of why there's nothing wrong with the so-called "erudite rock". Lyrics matter, foremost when there's a band that can pack enlightening and intriguing words with brilliant, blissful music. Here comes The Decemberists!

Song: The Engine Driver
Artist: The Decemberists
Year: 2005

If my memory serves me well, my introduction to The Decemberists began with 'Odalisque' thanks, as usual, to Radio 3. But, despite the immediate love for the tune (and half of 'Castaways and Cutouts, for the matter), it wouldn't be until 'Picaresque' arrived that I became a die-hard fan of the band (umm, skipping 'Hazards of Love', sorry). But the truth is I got pretty obsessed with the record, and particularly with 'The Engine Driver', to the point of learning some computer skills to properly manipulate my copy of NBA 2K in order to have Meloy and Co's album replacing the (otherwise awful) soundtrack of the game. Yeah, it might look like a pretty odd choice for going straight to the rim or blocking a shoot, but it worked for me... Now, several albums later (always a bunch of tunes among the best of the year if there's a release from them), there's one thing that really strikes me about The Decemberists. Don't know many other bands I can listen & enjoy no matter of the situation. I can have it as "background music", calming my mood thanks to their beautifully crafted tunes. I can put my headphones on and switch off the lights, discovering the subtleties and richness of their instrumentation. Or, on the other hand, they can be one of the most demanding groups ever, making you read, even (the nerd on me) study Meloy's lyrics (something I find exciting). Take this majestic song, for instance. It starts like an R.E.M slow number (the fact they aren't shy of showing that influence proudly is another reason for me to love them), then Colin starts singing and the moody music just embraces you gracefully. You can hear a 12 string guitar, an accordion, a piano, a violin, and haunting vocal harmonies, Then you can dive yourself into the lyrics, on which Meloy's writes not just one but four stories: the one about an engine driver, a county lineman, a money lender and, finally, a clever singer/songwriter, going full circle (as a masterful author does), and revealing himself as "a writer of fictions" who has "written pages upon pages/Trying to rid you from my bones". All with one goal (and what really matters). Sharing a tune that is pure emotion, an honest, diaphanous lament on loneliness and love... two feelings the majority of listeners can relate with. It's uplifting despite the sorrow... I'll stop it here before I get emotional here. What a band, what a band...

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