Thursday, March 19, 2015


The Decemberists made a sensation with the gadabout crowd with their epic sea shanties and contagious cabaret cool.  The band formed in Portland, Oregon in 2000 and self-released the 'Five Songs' EP (which was re-released with a sixth song added) the next year.  Their debut album 'Castaways and Cutouts' came out on local Hush Records before moving to the Kill Rock Stars label for 'Her Majesty the Decemberists'.

For 'Picaresque' they rented out the Prescott Church in northeast Portland.  Colin Meloy considers:   "I think that we had - on the two previous records we were working with really limited resources and really limited budgets. The first one [Castaways and Cutouts] was done completely out of pocket. The second was done, by our standards - by what we need to make a record - it was done on kind of a shoestring, even though that was a big budget for Kill Rock Stars at the time. So there were compromises that we had to make, corners we had to cut. But with Picaresque, we set out to really take our time with it and really avoid making compromises. Being able to really follow any whim. And I think to a certain degree we were able to do that...All instruments sound fantastic in a church. That's kinda what they're designed for. And also to get out of the studio. I think the performances in Her Majesty the Decemberists may have hampered a bit by the constraints of the studio...You don't have to follow any accepted structure of pop songwriting. [Pop] is really a medium that is intended to be pushed around. It's very elastic...I don't know. [The world I write from] crosses all eras and geographical boundaries. I really tend to Mash a lot of different accepted literary genres and literary geography from fairy tales of Northern Europe to middle eastern fairytales to north American folklore and mash it together in a lot of places."

The sessions were co-produced by the band with Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla and featured Colin Meloy on guitar and vocals;  Chris Funk on guitar;  Nate Query on bass;   Jenny Conlee  on accordion, keyboards, and vocals;   and Rachel Blumberg on drums and vocals;    with  Paul Brainard on horn arrangements and trumpet;   Joe Cunningham on sax;    Petra Haden on violin and vocals;  Tom Hill on trombone;  Jeff London on shofar;  Aaron Stewart on tamtam and tom-tom;  Chris Walla on guitar;  and Sean Nelson and Eric Stern  on vocals.   Illustrations were done by Carson Ellis.  

'Picaresque' charted at number one hundred and twenty eight on the US album chart.

"16 Military Wives"

"On the Bus Mall"

"From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)"

"The Engine Driver"

"The Mariner's Revenge Song"

full album:

All songs written by Colin Meloy.

1. "The Infanta"   5:08
2. "We Both Go Down Together"   3:04
3. "Eli, the Barrow Boy"   3:11
4. "The Sporting Life"   4:38
5. "The Bagman's Gambit"   7:02
6. "From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)"   3:42
7. "16 Military Wives"   4:53
8. "The Engine Driver"   4:15
9. "On the Bus Mall"   6:04
10. "The Mariner's Revenge Song"   8:46
11. "Of Angels and Angles"   2:28

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