|1. Leslie Anne Levine|
|2. Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect|
|3. July, July!|
|4. A Cautionary Song|
|7. Grace Cathedral Hill|
|8. The Legionnaire's Lament|
|10. California One/Youth And Beauty Brigade|
Well this disc is a lot like that.
I mean, yeah, there are some similarities, but they're all pretty superficial. Really, the arrangements, the production, and the songwriting on this album is a lot more safe than anything you'd find on a Neutral Milk Hotel album.
That said, there are some nice moments here. The Instrumentation is lush and at times the melodies are quite pretty. The lyrics make a great deal more sense than Mr. Magnum's lyrics, and I think that's a good thing. Yeah, Neural Milk Hotel's lyrics are unique and they often do seem to fit with the music, but when you get right down to it they're pretty much meaningless. The lyrics on this album depict little vignettes and occasionally fully-realized narratives, it's interesting stuff.
Just to get it out of the way, I see the reason for the Neutral Milk Hotel comparisons, but I'd ultimately reject them. Yes, Colin Meloy and Jeff Mangum have similar voices (though I'd say Meloy has a bit more range) and they appear, on the surface, to have similar song-writing styles. However, I'd say Mangum's more of novelist while Meloy is a short story writer. Mangum's masterpiece - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - was a grand sweeping epic of an album. Castaways & Cutouts feels like 10 intimate portraits.
Getting back to the album, I can say that I haven't been so instantly captivated by an album in a long, long time. (And, for the record, this is the first time ever that I've found myself with accordian line stuck in my head.) The album's a nice blend of more up-tempo songs and quieter, more instrospective numbers. The former quickly lodged themselves in my brain. The latter took a bit more work (somewhat like the entire followup album - Her Majesty etc. etc. etc), but proved to have quite a good deal going on, sonically speaking.
So, I'd reccommend this album to, essentially, everyone. Certainly to Neutral Milk Hotel fans, who will find this, at first, familiar, and then simply wonderful
It starts off with a simple acoustic strum in the pleasant "Leslie Ann Levine," followed by folky ballads (the wistful "Clementine," the stately organ-enhanced "Grace Cathedral Hill," the low-key "Cocoon") and acoustic-heavy pop-rock ("Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect," the joyously nostalgic "July July!") before wrapping up with the rather plodding "California One Youth And Beauty Brigade."
As in "Her Majesty the Decemberists," the Decemberists seem to hint at what more they could be doing. The deceptively simple "Odalisque" is an example of how they could go in the future -- a folky ballad suddenly darkens and spirals up into a shimmering organ/percussion whirlwind.
Colin Meloy's acoustic guitar is still the predominant force, but here he lets it occasionally take the back seat to other instrumentation like percussion and organ. And Meloy's voice itself is a bit reminiscent of Jeff Mangum or Wayne Coyne -- nasal and a bit off-key, but pleasant enough to listen to in the framework of offbeat indie rock.
The music is solid and grounded, well-done but it's not really too outstanding. It's also rather disconnected from the dreamlike, peculiar lyrics ("Grace Cathedral hill/all wrapped in the bones of a setting sun/all dust and stone and moribund"). The music matches songs like "July July!Read more ›