By Nikki Butgereit
Those still afraid that The Decemberists’ move to Capitol Records from Kill Rock Stars indicates a possible sell-out need listen no further than the second track. For 12 glorious minutes, “The Island – Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel The Drowning” moves through musical styles and moods ranging from 70s blues to classic Decemberists shanties to close with the melancholy repetition of “Go to sleep now, little ugly / Go to sleep now, you little fool / Forty winking in the belfry / You’ll not feel the drowning.”
As is common in the loosely braided indie-rock genre, The Crane Wife is organized under a concept, recreating the Japanese folk tale of the same name. Punctuated by themes of love, trust, greed and loss, the music dramatically weaves calming vocals with hammered dulcimer and hurdy-gurdy.
The Decemberists create such layered music that second and third listens are required to feel the full effect. And while the music might seem outmoded on the surface, deeper listening reveals a body of work that is taking indie-rock to a new level, one composition at a time. VS