Portland art rockers the Decemberists
have a well-earned reputation as being the home of folk rock's hyperliterate elite. With Colin Meloy's love of nautical wordplay and a vocabulary that busts the SAT's grading scale, it takes a certain type of mindset to appreciate their often esoteric themes and lyrics. Despite this, the Decemberists have remained one of the most popular and critically beloved indie acts (until they signed with Capitol Records
) of the last decade. Early 2011 saw the release of the group's last full-length, the always fun The King Is Dead
. Leave it to the dawning of spring to see the first concert album in the band's history, We All Raise Our Voices to the Air
, and while it may not sway any who remain skeptics of the band's literary ambitions, for all true Decemberists fans, it is a pure delight.
Beginning with "Infanta" from 2005's Picaresque
-- which provides the lyric that name the album--, We All Raise Our Voices to the Air
splits itself right down the middle with the best tunes off The King Is Dead
("Calamity Song," "This Is Why We Fight," "Down by the Water," and others) and the established fan favorites from the rest of their discography ("We Both Go Down Together," "The Bagman's Gambit," "The Crane Wife 1, 2, and 3"). Whether your favorite era from the Decemberists is the Renaissance Fair shenanigans of Picaresque
, the rock opera absurdity of The Hazards of Love
, or the alt-country pop simplicity of The King Is Dead
, you will find yourself well represented on this fairly comprehensive collection of the Decemberists' tunes.
The Decemberists' music has always struck a communal chord. With Colin Meloy's impassioned voice and the band's expansive sound, it's hard not to feel as if you're part of something bigger when you listen to the Decemberists. That feeling of community translates to their live experience even better than their studio albums with regular interludes for Colin Meloy to incorporate the audience into the act. While there are plenty of people who feel a lack of authenticity from Meloy's tales of joint suicides, revenge seeking mariners, and 18th century soldiers, for fans the lyrical playfulness has always been the group's primary appeal. If you're longing for the next Decemberists LP, you'll have to wait a while longer, but this should help hold you over until then.