The Decemberists’ whimsy is alive and well on ‘I’ll Be Your Girl’

Colin Meloy is 43 years old, has two sons with his wife and creative partner, artist Carson Ellis, and lives on a big chunk of land in Portland, Oregon. He loves The Replacements, geeks out about the Portland Trailblazers, and writes political posts on Twitter. If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume this Colin Meloy is just another hipster dad in glasses (he does wear glasses, so you’d be right about that). However, Meloy is the lead singer and songwriter for the delightfully anachronistic band The Decemberists, a five-piece indie rock group whose songs manage to feel incredibly relevant while traversing through centuries past. They released their eighth studio album, I’ll Be Your Girl, just last week to the delight of cool 30somethings around the world. Like Decemberists albums before it, I’ll Be Your Girl has its own unique sound while still being easily identifiable as Meloy and company’s work.

The Decemberists have a fantastic sense of humor. Whether it’s the (literal) tongue-in-cheek lyrics of “Philomena” or the delightfully playful music video for “16 Military Wives,” the band has never taken themselves seriously. I’ll Be Your Girl opens with “Once in my Life” and asks the audience “Oh for once in my life/could just something go/could just something go right?” The song isn’t necessarily somber and culminates with a round of lighthearted synths and poppy percussion. For The Decemberists, this kind of juxtaposition works in their favor. This album is a departure from their most recent works, riding the recent wave of 80s nostalgia with a hefty dose of synths and crisp beats. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the album’s single “Severed”. It isn’t until Meloy’s signature chops come in that the track takes on a more traditional Decemberists feel. It’s impressive when a band can challenge their fans without losing their identity, something many groups have tried and failed miserably.

“Everything is Awful” and “We All Die Young” have a bit of deadpan humor but they also feel pretty relevant to what’s going on today. The Decemberists haven’t been quiet about their hatred for Trump, and some of these songs are born out of the complete lack of control that many Americans are experiencing. The lyrics juxtapose the bright, happy melodies, a la The Smiths, and Meloy’s purposeful vocals bring the message home. We might be fucked, but art makes everything better. For fans of The Decemberists’ epic narratives, “Rusalka, Rusalka/The Wild Rushes” will soothe your wild heart. The song is an 8-minute somber and dark piece that builds into a headphone-breaking crescendo. It’s best enjoyed in a car on a dark road at 1 in the morning whilst contemplating your place in the universe (if you want more of that feeling, just play The Hazards of Love from start to finish).
This isn’t The Decemberists’ strongest album. A few songs fall short, like “Tripping Along”, but even the less inventive tracks are enjoyable. What The Decemberists do well, however, they do well to the nth degree. I’ll Be Your Girl is bitter, funny, upbeat, and heartbreaking. And that’s just how we like it.
The Decemberists are currently on tour and will be stopping in cities across the country. For tickets, click HERE.