My dear Isabella,
It has been an unduly extended period since my previous communication, and I apologize for my unproportioned replies to your correspondence. I cannot but carry doubt that your yearnings to set your eyes upon the ink of my quill have been uncountable. Oh my dear, I have recently alighted with a peculiar piece of American art! A collection of Americans calling themselves "Decemberists" has produced an intriguing record that has overcrowed my intellect with an intense fascination...
Sounding like an eccentric, erudite 19th century British common man, Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, with his put-on accent, presents a masterful ability to tell a poetic story in a baroque song. The Decemberists combine the rhetoric, spirit and poise of Charles Dickens and Jonathan Swift with the modern indie-pop in vein of Belle and Sebastian and Neutral Milk Hotel, in these quirky ballads and sweet melodies.
With stories from far away, painted with a vocabulary from word-of-the-day calendars, Her Majesty the Decemberists proffers a cast of unlikely characters (Gymnasts, jewesses, WWI infantry, "orphans and oligarchs" and chimney sweeps), tied together in an audio storybook. Her Majesty presents, on "Shanty for Arethusa," a swaying five-minute tale of a pirate ship set sail to Australia "on a packet full of spice, rum, and tea-leaves" of a quality that would make Johnny Depp walk the plank. Later along, A sung dialogue between a love-lost widow and a scampish orphan in "The Chimbley Sweep" presents an even fuller narrative effect.
As much as it may come across that The Decemberists will only appeal to bookish logophiles, do not eschew this album; its appeal is equally in the chamber-pop instrumentation as it is in the stories.
Having more of a poppy and produced demeanor (through the addition of Rachel Blumberg and Jesse Emerson to the band's line up), Her Majesty the Decemberists is fuller, more charismatic and upbeat than its predecessor, Castaways and Cutouts. In the buoyant accordion-driven jig "The Chimbley Sweep" to the drunken country romp "As I Rise", the music styles on Her Majesty The Decemberists have mellifluous instrumentation is an amalgam of the best sounds of the Old World (Glockenspiel, violin, viola, cello, accordion) with those of the New World (Pedal/lap steel, harmonica, acoustic guitar, upright bass).
Meloy's peculiar humor glistens upon the album. On the ode to writer Myla Goldberg, he delivers such absurd lines as "Pretty hands do pretty things, when pretty times arise" and "I know New York/I need New York/I know I need unique New York". He sings the tale of a perverted voyeur on "Billy Liar" - "Billy Liar's got his hands in his pockets/Staring over at the neighbors, knickers down".
Yet, Her Majesty... is at times as plaintive and morose as it is playful and quaint. On "The Bachelor and the Bride" Meloy heart-wrenchingly laments over gentle acoustic guitar and keyboards about the funeral of a couples' first daughter. Meloy describes his being drawn unwillingly to the urbane and opulent "hollowness" in Los Angeles: "How I abhor this place / Its sour and bitter taste / Has left me wretched, wretching on all fours" on "Los Angeles, I'm Yours".
With Her Majesty the Decemberists, like a good book, you will find yourself returning to it again and again.
If you, my love, have yet failed to do so, tighten your whale-bone corset, and pull up your pantaloons. Proceed with haste, I cannot bear to envisage the grief that will fall upon your thwarted countenance as you witness a jubilant cosmopolitan fop removing the single remaining copy of Her Majesty, The Decemberists off the shelves of the record boutique...
9.5 / 10
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