Songs for Beowulf and Garfunkel
The newest album from The Decemberists, Picaresque, is a refreshing break from mainstream music. Most music in pop culture has similar undercurrents, whether itâ€šÃ„Ã´s a feeling or a drumbeat or sound effects on guitars and electronic pianos. The Decemberists do not seem to immerse themselves in pop music, which is evident in this newest effort.Picaresque is a slightly kitschy mish mash of all kinds of eclectic styles. It is mainly influenced by folk; with harmonies like those of Belle & Sebastian, melodies like those from Simon & Garfunkel, and lyrics like those by Joni Mitchell. Singer Colin Meloy sounds rather similar to a male Delores Oâ€šÃ„Ã´Riordan of The Cranberries in terms of basic accent (even though The Decemberists are from ye olde Portland, Oregon!) and vocal style manifested in songs like â€šÃ„ÃºEli, the Barrow Boy.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Songs such as â€šÃ„ÃºWe Both Go Down Togetherâ€šÃ„Ã¹ utilize a vast array of instruments from an accordion to strings, an electronic organ and what sounds like a mandolin. These songs incorporate older elements of style, the simple breakdown of songwriting from a more delicate era.
The most interesting aspect of their music is the fact that many of the tracks such as â€šÃ„ÃºThe Marinerâ€šÃ„Ã´s Revenge Songâ€šÃ„Ã¹ sound quite akin to nondescript European folk songs. The tune could be of German, French, Irish, or Welsh origin, the lyrics seem as if they were translated by a scholar at Oxford University from a mostly-forgotten version of some other language. It is nostalgic in style and content though it is not copy-cat. The Decemberists definitely have their shit together, and not in an ordinary way.