is yet more proof that the Decemberists' Colin Meloy is the songwriter who loves loveespecially when it ends in death, ("We Both Go Down Together," "Of Angels and Angles"), disease ("The Mariner's Revenge Song") or in some other tragic way. This CD spends some time in the band's familiar old Europe setting, although Meloy also touches on politics, espionage, and even soccer. (Proving he knows his fan base, Meloy's "The Sporting Life," is the perfect shout-out to the kids who preferred the library to the gym.) Long-time fans will know what to expect from this album, which compares favorably to the other LPs on their catalog, and with Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla on board as producer, the band seems poised to reach the greater audience they deserve. If you're not already a listener, don't wait another second to become one. With their remarkable vocabulary and bawdy-yet-literary imagery, the Decemberists are guaranteed to make you smarter even as they make you weep. Pop this in your CD player, grab a dictionary, rock and learn.--Leah Weathersby
In the past two years, The Decemberists have gone from unknowns outside their native Portland to success via critical praise, impressive sales, and packed houses. Produced by Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) in a Portland church that was also being used as a daycare center, with 'Picaresque' The Decemberists have recorded their fullest sounding release yet, all ambitions fulfilled. Kill Rock Stars. 2005.