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Mark Fedorov
Mark Fedorov

The Decemberists The Tain ~REPACK~ Download

Predictably, this modest collection of leftovers from the same studio sessions appeared shortlyafterward: in effect an EP of outtakes from an album of outtakes. If nothing else, the five songshere marked a full-circle retreat to the unremarkable Indie Rock of the "5 Songs" EP from 2001, inretrospect hardly a Decemberists classic but at least showing some of the youthful aspirationsmissing from the band's current efforts.After fifteen years of escalating success the group now sounds a bit jaded, content to rest on theirwilting laurels. "Riverswim" is a pretty song, once again mining the same vein of faux-Americanaexploited for "The King is Dead" a half-decade earlier. "Fits and Starts" presents anotherplagiarized R.E.M.-style rocker, one of many already dotting the Decemberist landscape. There's evena song titled "Stateside", by coincidence (or maybe not) a bookend reflection of the "5 Songs"ballad "Oceanside".Even the signature vocal tremolo of Meloy, so distinctive when he's singing about 'brickbats andBowery toughs', is fast becoming a tiresome affectation. The Decemberists certainly deserve all theacclaim their music has earned them in the past. But with the eclecticism long gone, and with Meloycomplacently treading very shallow water, it might be time to admit his band's best years are behindthem. social review comments Review PermalinkPosted Thursday, May 26, 2016 Review this album Report (Review #1570881)

The Decemberists The Tain Download

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There's nothing wrong with that. When properly motivated, Colin Meloy can still write incrediblywell-crafted pop songs ("Make You Better") and lovely acoustic ballads ("Lake Song", and is that aMellotron I hear over the chorus?). But the material here sounds oddly disengaged, lacking even thelightweight thread of backwoods Americana that held the "King" album loosely together."We had to change some", Meloy insists at the start of the album, in a narcissistic dittytransparently named "The Singer Addresses His Audience". The author denies any autobiographicalbias, but I don't believe it: he's too smart not to realize the song plays like a slap in the faceto longtime fans who treasured the band's originality. We get it, Colin: you've outgrown thattrademark antique Victorian charm and tongue-in-cheek narrative whimsy. Change is good, but not whenyou're defending your weakest album to date (and still performing "The Mariner's Revenge Song" onstage).Ironically, "The Singer Addresses..." is by far the album's strongest track: a thrilling return toform, at least musically. Elsewhere the songs too often go in one ear and out the other, andthankfully too: "Easy Come, Easy Go", as Meloy sings in the (almost) catchy rocker of the same name.That old-thyme American folk sound from "The King is Dead" resurfaces in "Carolina Low" and "BetterNot Wake the Baby" (what was that you said about needing to change, Colin..?) And the band hits rockbottom in the twin nadirs of "Cavalry Captain" and "Philomena", the former sounding not unlike theworst of '80s Phil Collins (but with pithier lyrics), and the latter a fluffy pop nonentity withatypically smarmy lyrics unworthy of the pen that wrote "The Crane Wife".Let's hope such a unique songwriter, who describes himself (in "Lake Song") as being at one time"seventeen and terminally fey", soon grows tired of career-building and reconnects with the buoyantspirit of his wayward youth. social review comments Review PermalinkPosted Tuesday, May 24, 2016 Review this album Report (Review #1569967)

The opener "Infanta" is a huge, bombastic, and upbeat attention grabber with a Spanish flair. It's pretty good, and may be a prog fan's highlight of the album. However, it's hardly representative of what follows. "We Both Go Down Together" is a sing-songy tune with an abundance of Meloy vocals and violin counter melody. A good example of a song that has a few moments of appeal but doesn't quite work as intended. We're given songs that are playful and charming, melancholic and sorrowful, and even ambitious balladry like "Bagman's Gambit". This song is another good example of a mixed bag; the composition has numerous dynamic shifts and nuance, but doesn't have the emotional "umph" to resonate. "Mariner's Revenge Song" is better, thanks to its reliance on acoustics and occasional moments of intensity. Ironically, the excellent instrumental performances and nuanced vocals of later albums haven't quite developed yet, but the album retains a strong sense of presence and fun despite this. For me Picaresque is at its best at its most extreme: very ambitious and "forte," or very acoustic and sensitive. There is too much middling to make this more than a 3-star prog folk release. Those curious about the band should check out the much better albums that follow first, and temper expectations if working backwards. Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 2 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3 social review comments Review PermalinkPosted Wednesday, December 16, 2015 Review this album Report (Review #1499934)


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