The band most likely to win a Scrabble tournament, The Decemberists’ verbose folk rock isn’t for everyone. But as a bearded history graduate, I’m their target demographic, and they’ve built up a strong back catalogue since 2002’s Castaways and Cutouts, ranging from dense progressive rock to stripped back Americana.
The first song from their debut album, ‘Lesley Anne Levine’ set the group’s tone nicely, with its dark folk lyrics and acoustic strum:
The Decemberists expanded into more poppy territory on their third album, Picaresque, with bouncy numbers like ’16 Military Wives’ sharing space with their usual folk songs and sea shanties:
Their fourth album, 2006’s The Crane Wife, is often regarded as their peak, mixing accomplished folk rock songs like ‘Yankee Bayonet’ with grandiose epics like ‘The Island’.
2009’s The Hazards of the Love was a full blown rock opera, with guest Shara Nova of My Brightest Diamond featuring as The Forest Queen:
The group’s most recent two albums have featured more straightforward songwriting and arrangements, like ‘Cavalry Captain’ from 2015’s What A Beautiful World, What A Terrible World’:
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