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I have surrounded myself with music and most of that music is of the indie rock variety. I worked Alternative-Rock promotion for a while and it sort of snowballed from there. I have been a fan of music for as long as I can remember. My parents would always have some sort of music playing around the house, ranging from the Beatles and Led Zepplin to Loverboy and Van Halen. They, of course, have separated and settled down since the glory days of yore and I suppose I have too.
From my pop-punk days in college to my Radiohead experimental days in promotions to my current stint in music journalism, I have been subjected to some of the greatest (and the worst) music before it was released into (and then forced onto) the general public by me. I've been in the game from enough angles to establish some credibility as a judge of what makes music good, or if not good, at least different.
We all need change. If we learned anything from Fight Club it's that the sheep will follow a man who beats himself up in the parking lot. No wait, not that - we learned that we are all not a unique snowflake. The majority of people in the country are content with the crap that is played on the radio, which will only dig a deeper pit of same-sounding blandness. Yuck. It will not offer a change, and we all need change. When I start feeling the need for change I turn to my friends for recommendations, and that is how I stumbled upon the The Decemberists.
If you haven't heard the The Decemberists yet, you are missing out. The pictures painted by Colin Malloy's words are inspiring, the band's instrumentation and unique collective sound are something I think every band should seek out. Since being turned on to the band's first album and EP a little over three months ago I have yet to stop listening to them. I have heard at least one (if not all 16) of those songs every day since first picking them up. It is the storytelling that makes the sound so unique, and that uniqueness makes the Decemberists so indispensable.
I am a fan of bands that stand out among the rest of the indie rock world, bands like the Olivia Tremor Control, Of Montreal and Neutral Milk Hotel,to which the Decemberists are often compared. Like those hallowed members of the Athens, Georgia-based Elephant Six collective, Decemberists write lyricsal stories and set them to music overflowing with unique sounds and/or instrumentals from within.
Once someone hears songs of such remarkable beauty - like "Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect" and "Apology Song" for instance - they develop heightened expectations of other bands. The Decemberists inspire a want for everyone to be able to write songs that sound beautiful and tell an interesting story. The problem is, very few bands do, so we are set up to be disappointed with everything.
Of Montreal are a very talented bunch of individuals who are able to construct a funny, almost nonsensical tale and layer it upon a bit wackier instrumentations. I would consider them the sugary substitute of the Decemberists, but being diabetic I suppose I prefer the dry wit of Missoula native Colin Malloy to the sweet pop of Kevin Barnes. Don't get me wrong, both are very enjoyable with poppy fun goodness and wacky character driven stories, but it is rare for a band to paint pictures with words the way that the Decemberists do.
I also realize that if I want an interesting five minute story I could stick with Bukowski or Sedaris shorts, but when a story is backed by the charming accordion and haunting organs of the Decemberists for instance it only makes it that much more enjoyable. Castaways & Cutouts ends up being a jumble of emotions, like Death Cab for Cutie in a haunted house spirited by Tom Waits trying to cover Of Montreal songs.
I have received the newest release by The Decemberists' back catalog is so addictive that their new release, Her Majesty, and I plan on listening to it - if I could only stop listening to their other releases long enough. Do yourself a favor, pick up Castaways & Cutouts and see what I mean by the pictures painted with words. It is a world I wouldn't mind living in, if for only five or so minutes. SEE ALSO: www.decemberists.com
SEE ALSO: www.killrockstars.com
Having been introduced to good music by his sister in the early years, Bob Ladewig has been searching out all the best in indie music ever since. He also rides a skateboard and performs/directs comedy shows and, like all great men, he's afraid of really growing up.
See other articles by Bob Ladewig.
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