Photo from nusound.com
By Jen Cooper
Last April, I went to see The Decemberists in New Haven at College Street Music Hall where they played many of my favorite songs in addition to a few new ones I had not heard of. When I downloaded “I’ll Be Your Girl,” the new Decemberists album, on Friday March 16 from Spotify, the previously unrecognizable songs brought me right into the new album.
I first heard this Oregon-based Indie Rock band from a CD I got at a discount CD store in 2015 because the cover art looked cool. That was “The Hazards of Love,” their rock opera from 2009. Shortly thereafter, I bought two more of their CDs, and by the end of the year, I owned almost all of their now 10 albums.
Then I got a Spotify account. From there I downloaded the rest of the albums and went through phases of different albums, enjoying each one. They quickly became my favorite band with their quirky instrumentation and unique style of folk-indie. That led me to the concert in April 2017 where they played songs they were working on for their “new album.” I wondered when that new album would come to fruition.
A bit under a year later, “Severed,” a new single, was pre-released from their new album, released on March 16. I did as much internet research on the new album as possible but the fact remained I had to wait two weeks before I could hear it on Spotify. Based on how much I rocked to the first single, I was pumped.
First thing on the morning of March 16, as I was driving my brother to work at 8 am, I downloaded the album on Spotify, almost wanting to postpone the glorious moment. I had never been in such a unique situation where I could listen to my favorite band’s new album for the first time. I could not wait any longer. Spotify played “I’ll Be Your Girl.”
Allow me to describe the album song by song as I listened the first few times.
The first song “Once In My Life” started slow, but beautifully. The lyrics hit home based on my personal life recently. “Oh for once in my life/oh could just something go/could just something go right?” A minute in, the guitar and synths come in, and I am bopping my head. This song, like many of the first songs on their albums, it is universal and relatable and fun with major chords and feel good sounds. I noticed some 80s music themes with some of the solid synth sounds. Normally I cannot stand ’80s music, but the song was working a lot for me.
The second song, “Cutting Stone” also started on the softer side, but again it picked up with some rock beats. For some reason, a lot of Decemberists songs have mentions of extreme violence, but almost in a cynical comical way. They address the darker side of human nature, but in a light way. It was not my favorite song, and it grew a bit repetitive. It is the kind of song that I would keep on if I listened to the whole album but would not go out of my way to listen to.
“Severed,” the third on the album, was the song that was pre-release so I already recognized that song. Despite the fact that the lyric is “I’ll leave you all severed” highlighting the darkness of human nature, the beat uses synthetic sounds and deep bass at a fast tempo to really catch listeners. I put this song at the gym when I want to feel badass, because it is such a fun song.
“Starwatcher,” “Tripping Along” and “Your Ghost,” have the typical feel of filler songs. From what I have noticed, the first two songs on their albums are catchy, but can get a bit old if listened to all the time. Usually songs three and/or four are the major hits or my favorite songs on the album. The next two or three after are nice songs but usually not my favorites. “Starwatcher” had a nice guitar and piano but not particularly unique lyrics. “Tripping Along” had a nice mellow sound and a tad of darkness in the lyrics I like. “Your Ghost” had the fun upbeat tempo I like once in a while. It did not jump out or stick with me, though.
Song number seven made me jump in my jeep, excited because I recognized it from last year’s concert. I liked it then, and I loved it now. This song perfectly encapsulates the millennial apathy and hopelessness for the future mixed with the generation z’s humor for the world ending. “Everything Is Awful” was introduced last year as the song about America’s current state, which hasn’t changed much. It is fun, upbeat, and whimsical, like some of their other ironically happy songs.
“Sucker’s Prayer” was possibly my favorite song on the album. I hum it when I try to fall asleep. It is less repetitive than “Everything Is Awful” but just as fun. My personal favorite lyric is “I wanna love somebody but I don’t know how/ I’ve been so long lonely and it’s bringing me down/ I wanna love somebody but I don’t know how/ I wanna throw my body in a river and drown.” How fun is that?
The next song, “We All Die Young,” has the same fun repetitiveness of “Everything Is Awful” but has an edgier sound with voice effects and children’s voices chanting in the back, much like the chanting in “The Hazards of Love part 3” from their other album. Yet another ironic dark yet light song.
“Rusalka, Rusalka/ Wild Rushes” starts slow and dark but transitions to a unique triplet feel time signature. I did not care much for the song, but I definitely appreciated the musical originality.
The last song and title song “I’ll Be Your Girl” ends the album nicely with a soft and fun song. It challenged gender roles. “I could be your man but I’d be so much more/If I could be your girl.” The ending reminded me of the ending of their 2012 album, “The King is Dead.” Something soft and catchy, the title song ends it nicely.
About the album as a whole; it was incredible. It was all I hoped it would be. They had some real bangers that I have come to expect from every album as well as some transition songs I liked but would not listen to on repeat in the shower. They had their same unique sounds with a different more synth-80s feel and theme throughout. In addition, ‘the world is ending but we’ll smile through it’ theme was personally enticing.
From the cover art to the song order to the individual songs itself, “I’ll Be Your Girl” did not disappoint. I cannot wait for their next concert or to hopefully see them in concert sometime soon.