Her Majesty the Decemberists
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|1. Shanty For The Arethusa|
|2. Billy Liar|
|3. Los Angeles, I'm Yours|
|4. The Gymnast, High Above The Ground|
|5. The Bachelor And The Bride|
|6. Song For Myla Goldberg|
|7. The Soldiering Life|
|8. Red Right Ankle|
|9. The Chimbley Sweep|
|10. I Was Meant For The Stage|
|11. As I Rise|
Failing students have had such an influential role in shaping rock & roll that it's easy to give the bookworm segment short shrift. Witness the vital contributions from the likes of Ray Davies, the Zombies, and Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Magnum--the kind of smartypants songwriters with whom the Decemberists' Colin Meloy is often compared. The second full-length CD from Portland, Oregon's Decemberists certainly posits Meloy near the top of the current crop of literate indie rockers. Meloy is the brother of author Maile Meloy and a fellow whom one concludes has his own well-worn library card. Eschewing conventional pop-song subject matter, he delves deep into the past for his narratives and even his lexicon, witness "Shanty for the Arethusa," the high-seas opener, and "The Chimbley Sweep," which recalls the Zombies' similarly dark-hued "Butcher's Tale." Though the subject matter is frequently dire and the approach is lyrically erudite, one shouldn't conclude that listening to Her Majesty is the aural equivalent of wading through some dusty tome. Bright pop melodies, smart arrangements, and Meloy's commanding vocals adorn songs that are as inviting as they are astute and evocative. --Steven Stolder
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Top Customer Reviews
The Decemberists sophomore album is a more ambitious outing than their previous "Castaways and Cutouts," but it definitely has its highs and lows. But when it hits its stride, it's on.
It opens with its most ambitious track, "Shanty for the Arethusa," (3/5) which is quite a whale of a song. It's a little lengthy and drags on, leaving the listener to wonder if the rest of the album will sound like this. It's not at all a bad song, but it's, dare I say, too much. It gets to be overwhelming. It's chorus gets you thinking it's about to pick up into something new but this song just, sort of, goes on... over my head. Definitely an interesting track and not one to skip, but it's just a little too ambitious and overwhelming. Next you hear the shout of "Billy Liar" (4/5) having his hands in his pockets staring over at the neighbors' knickers down. This is a much peppier song than the previous and changes the direction of the album for the better, it's not their best song, but "Billy Liar" is much friendlier to the listener and is much more enjoyable.
"Los Angeles, I'm Yours" (5/5)is one of the better songs on the album. Composed with the guitar, backed up by the Decemberists' string quartet and including a harmonica solo, this brilliantly written song that takes shots at my home town is one that will leave you asking for more.
"The Gymnast, High Above the Ground" (4/5) is another more ambitious song. Unlike "Shanty," "The Gymnast" builds up rather than go backwards. This is one of the more beautiful songs with a little bit more piano. The simple repetition of this song is infectious and it was very well done and thought out, but still not their best.Read more ›
As this record sinks in you might find yourself (as I did) wishing for some more of the 'Here I Dreamt I was an Architect' school of songwriting. Indeed, none of the songs quite seemed to move me the same way that Castaways... did. Mostly I felt that Meloy was trying to move away from his often criticized (and Neutral Milk Hotel-ish) style of performance. I support his efforts to alter his music and production qualities. Yet, I do not support his efforts to change them. Does he? It really doesn't really matter. What matters is that the quality of his songs are hurt as a result.
Thankfully, the effort more than paid off - this is an album of rare brilliance. 11 finely crafted songs, each creating its own unique world populated with deftly drawn individuals. Colin Meloy has a rare genius for inhabiting the characters of his songs. (A genius that is certainly comparable to that of Jeff Mangun, though that genius and a certain similarity of voice are really the only points of comparison between the two).
The sound is folky and lurches from moments of quiet introspection to pure pop bliss - often within the same song. The addition of strings on several trackes is welcome, and almost reminds me of Love (almost).
I'd pick 'Shanty for the Arethusa' and 'Los Angeles, I'm Yours' as my personal favorites, but in reality, it's all good. This is a difficult album, a quirky album, but, ultimately, one of the best things I've heard in a long time.
"Her Majesty The Decemberists" peaks early, with a quirky tune-up and a grandiose musical blast at the start of the seaworthy "Shanty for the Arethusa." From there the album levels off into a collection of catchy folk-pop (the naughty "Billy Liar," bouncy "Chimbley Sweep") and strummy psychedelic folk (the staccato "Los Angeles I'm Yours," the furtive "Gymnast, High Above the Ground") before leveling off into the slow, singsongy "As I Rise."
Comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel are inevitable, since they both play psychedelic-folk, have similar singing and very quirky styles. But the Decemberists come across as Neutral Milk Hotel-lite, since the psychedelica is toned down and there's none of that great fuzz guitar.
In fact, everything is toned down -- it's pleasant to listen to, but nothing will make your ears burn or your spine tingle. After the opening minute, it's more or less ordinary folk-pop with some strange lyrics. Most of the music is strummy acoustic guitar, with a bit of solid percussion, pretty piano, and a brief interlude with an accordian in "Chimbley Sweep."
Frontman Colin Meloy is one of those indie-rockers who sings in a high, off-key way. It's not great singing, but nice if you like lead singers of bands like Grandaddy or (surprise surprise) Neutral Milk Hotel. And the songwriting is pretty solid. Not exceptional, but with lines like "Seraphim in seaweed swim where stick-limbed Myla lies," it's certainly attention-grabbing.
"Her Majesty The Decemberists" is a pleasant collection of vaguely psychedelic folk-pop. It won't rock your world, but it might make it sway a little bit.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a really great cd. I listened to it all the way through and enjoyed the whole thing. The Decemberists are really different from any of the other new artists that are around... Read morePublished on Oct. 28 2005
The songs on this album are very well written, crafted I suppose, and the lyrics are interesting and obscure enough to peak my curiosity. Read morePublished on July 14 2004
All I have to say is, this is the first pop group that has forced me to consult a dictionary since I started listening to Dylan back in highschool - Conlin Meloy is full of fun,... Read morePublished on June 7 2004 by aloverofgreysilentdays
If anything this cd reminds me most of The Weakerthans, with the clever songwriting where the characters seem to come alive with the singer's voice. Read morePublished on June 7 2004 by Daniel J. Magee
Firstly, I thought I'd take this opportunity to clear a couple of things up about the Decemberists!
I noticed that he has been critised a number of times in these reviews for... Read more
I am such a huge Decemberists fan. They are so fun and poppy, like the thinking man's Backstreet Boys or something, but at the same time edgy and beautiful. Read morePublished on May 17 2004 by superblondgirl
I bought this album after a friend with good taste in music recommended it to me. I will never trust her again. Read morePublished on May 11 2004
This CD made me want to listen to the Bee Gees "Odessa" album. I think it was mainly the fact that the album opener, "Shanty for the Arethusa" starts the album... Read morePublished on April 25 2004 by dot-B-dot-B