Results for The Decemberists

interviews

The Decemberists

When Colin Meloy visited the show last year he promised to bring back his entire band, The Decemberists, next time they were in town. This week he makes good on his word. Meloy, Jenny Conlee, Chris Funk, John Moen and Nate Query join Jim and Greg for a conversation and performance. The band was in Chicago to perform a show and promote their most recent album The Crane Wife. This orchestral pop concept album is harder rocking than previous efforts, much to the delight of Greg, who only recently became a Decemberists‘ convert. Colin explains, "We’re really interested in rocking."

The band came into Chicago only a couple of weeks after the Virginia Tech massacre. Greg asks the band how that had affected their live shows. Colin responds that he was horrified by the incident, and was struck by how the media glommed onto the shooter's“macabre aesthetic.”In this case, these were perhaps warning signs, but Colin hopes people don't become unnecessarily paranoid about young people expressing their dark sides. Greg agrees, saying that art can often be the best way to respond to violence or tragedies.

The night Jim and Greg saw the Decemberists play live, Colin spoke about the Virginia Tech shootings, and the band followed that with a performance of "I'll Come Running," by Brian Eno. Sound Opinions listeners know that Jim has a special place in his heart for Eno, and he appreciated the choice of this song, which is about love and helping a friend. You can hear this song, as well as a rousing rendition of the three-part suite "The Crane Wife" in the course of the interview.

Go to episode 80

Shirley Collins

Of all the English folk revival artists, Shirley Collins was perhaps the most devoted to rural folk traditions. But at the same time, her records were incredibly innovative in their approach. Her 1964 album Folk Roots, New Routes with guitarist Davey Graham fused ancient songs with jazz arrangements, paving the way for bands like Fairport Convention. In collaboration with her sister Dolly, Shirley Collins also recorded with early music instruments and Renaissance ensembles. She even went electric with her acclaimed 1971 album No Roses. After developing a vocal condition known as dysphonia, Shirley gave up recording in 1978. Since then, she's become an inspiration to a new generation of artists, including The Decemberists' Colin Meloy, who covered one of her songs live on Sound Opinions. Now, after a nearly 40 year hiatus, she's returned with a new album, Lodestar. She joins Jim and Greg to explain why she returned to singing and how she chose her rather bloodsoaked repertoire.

In addition to her own recording career, Shirley Collins played an important role in music history when she accompanied legendary musicologist Alan Lomax as he traveled through the American south in 1959. Together, they collected field recordings of traditional working-class artists on farms, prisons, and churches. Their tapes of musicians like Mississippi Fred McDowell, Almeda Riddle, and Hobart Smith were huge influences on generations of artists, including Bob Dylan.

Go to episode 584

Colin Meloy

Next up on the show is an interview with Decemberists lead singer Colin Meloy. Colin came through town on his solo tour and seemed to be enjoying a break from the major label bureaucracy that is now involved in launching a Decemberists tour.

After performing "Tristan and Isolde," a song he wrote with his first band, Tarkio, Colin discusses his literary roots. While he does put heavy emphasis on narrative in his music, this songwriter hesitates to call himself a storyteller. He cannot hesitate to call himself an author, however — Colin wrote about The Replacements' Let It Be for the ‘33 1/3’ series, describing the impact that that album made on him as a budding musician.

The next song is "Barbara Allen," a tune originally performed by Shirley Collins, a British folk revivalist who has been a big inspiration to Colin. He explains that fans can look forward to hearing more Collins on the next Decemberists record. These same fans can also look forward to Jim's bodhrán jam session with the band.

Go to episode 9
specials

School of Prog Rock

One of the terms that keeps coming up again and again on Sound Opinions is "Progressive Rock." The Decemberists channel it, Mastodon references it, and countless of fans are obsessed with it. So, this week Jim and Greg decide to dive right in to this larger-than-life, fantastical genre that, let's face it, sometimes makes us laugh. They talk to Charles Snider, author of The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock, about Prog's heydey in the 1970s. Charles, Jim and Greg define the genre as having the following traits: it is visionary and experimental, it has virtuosity in both execution and composition, it's romantic, and it has a sense of "Britishness."

So which bands do it best? Charles and our hosts recommend the following for great, Progressive headphone listening.

  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • Genesis
  • Jethro Tull
  • Gentle Giant
  • The Pretty Things
  • Kraftwerk
  • Yes
  • King Crimson
Go to episode 207

Summer Road Trip

What better way to round out the summer than with a Sound Opinions (virtual) summer road trip. Too often, New York, L.A. and Nashville get all the music industry attention. But, there are great rock scenes all across the country, so this week Jim and Greg check in with insiders in three music towns coast-to-coast. They talk to Sam Sessa, an entertainment writer for the Baltimore Sun and the host of WTMD's Balitmore Unsigned, Bob Mehr, a music critic at Memphis' Commercial Appeal and Casey Jarman, the music editor at Portland's weekly newspaper the Willamette Week.

Check out these local acts-old favorites and new ones recommended by our city guides.

Go to episode 248
reviews
What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful WorldWhat a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World available on iTunes

The Decemberists What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

Portland folk-rock band The Decemberists has steadily ascended the ranks of rock stardom over their career, even hitting #1 on the Billboard charts with their previous album The King Is Dead. But it's been four years since that record dropped, and in the intervening period the band has developed a new diversity in their sound. Their new album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World experiments with a variety of pop styles not found in previous records, while still featuring the trademark hyperliterate lyrics of leader Colin Meloy. Greg is happy to hear the band in top form, nicely complemented by the harmony vocals of Rachel Flotard and Kelly Hogan. Jim loves how they manage to flirt with the prog rock sounds of Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake & Palmer without a hint of pretentiousness, all thanks to Meloy's self-deprecating sense of humor. Both critics give it a Buy It, with Jim going so far as to call it the first masterpiece of 2015.

JimGreg
Go to episode 477
Hazards of LoveThe Hazards of Love available on iTunes

The Decemberists The Hazards of Love

With their new album The Hazards of Love, The Decemberists are poised to reach their biggest audience to date. And neither Jim nor Greg think listeners, old or new, will be disappointed. The songs are typically fanciful and epic, but rock harder than ever. In fact, Greg thinks keyboardist Jenny Conlee deserves an award for her Deep Purple stylings. Both he and Greg give the album a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 173
The Crane Wife (10th Anniversary Edition)The Crane Wife available on iTunes

The Decemberists The Crane Wife

Finally, we move to the literate, fantastic world of The Decemberists. Lead-singer Colin Meloy (a former guest of our fair show) has always been wordy, but with lyrics like“affix your barbs and bayonets, the curlews carve their arabesques,”and song titles like "The Island: Come & See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll Not Feel The Drowning," he is taking it to a new level. The Decemberists' new album, The Crane Wife, is based on a Japanese folk tale — but despite these lofty inspirations, both Jim and Greg love this album. Jim has never denied his fondness for epic prog rock, but commends Meloy for taking the genre into the present, without sacrificing the hooks. Sound Opinions can vouch for Jim's praise of this record; he beams every time he mentions it. In the past, Greg has given the Decemberists (and Jim) a hard time for being too“twee.”But, he found this album to be the most ambitious of the band's career. He compares much of Meloy's writing to that of English bands like the Fairport Convention and explains that he is“developing into one of the most important songwriters of our time.”So this episode of Sound Opinions ends on a high note (literally, if you listen to Jim's sing-a-long). The Crane Wife gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 46
The King Is DeadThe King is Dead available on iTunes

The Decemberists The King is Dead

Since 2004, The Decemberists have evolved into full-blown theatricality. Now they scale it back with their sixth album The King is Dead. According to Jim, it's with this record that they silence critics of their prog antics and prove at their heart they're simply about great songwriting. Lead singer Colin Meloy and the band looked to American folk and roots music and enlisted R.E.M.'s Peter Buck for a track. Greg finds the results more straightforward. The King is Dead shows that less is more and gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 269
lists

The Best of 2009… So Far

Lists are just too much fun to do them only once a year. Here are Jim and Greg's mid-year best album lists.

Greg

  • St. Vincent, Actor
  • Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
  • Amadou & Mariam, Welcome to Mali
  • The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love
  • Maxwell, BLACKsummers'night
  • Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • Mastodon, Crack the Skye
  • Dan Deacon, Bromst
  • Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz

Jim

  • Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
  • The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love
  • Lily Allen, It's Not Me, It's You
  • Morrissey, Years of Refusal
  • Franz Ferdinand, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
  • PJ Harvey and John Parish, A Woman a Man Walked By
  • Moby, Wait for Me
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz
  • Passion Pit, Manners
  • Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  • Metric, Fantasies
  • K'Naan, Troubadour
  • Cursive, Mama, I'm Swollen
  • Bob Dylan, Together Through Life
  • Leonard Cohen, Live in London
  • St. Vincent, Actor
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
  • Mastodon, Crack the Skye
  • Sonic Youth, The Eternal
  • U2, No Line on the Horizon
  • Wilco, Wilco
  • The Handsome Family, Honey Moon
  • Art Brut, Art Brut vs. Satan
  • Peaches, I Feel Cream
  • Screaming Females, Power Move
  • Dan Deacon, Bromst

A message from Jim: The following, LISTED IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, is my tally of albums mid-year in 2009 that have all warranted 3.5 stars or more on the Chicago Sun-Times‘ 4-star ratings scale (making them all very enthusiastic“buy its”on the“Sound Opinions”scale). I will mention that these are in no particular order (sorry, but that’s reserved for the year-end list), that this list is not all-inclusive (I will no doubt catch up with quite a few discs released earlier in the year by the time I tally the year-end list) and, also, because this always confuses people, THESE ARE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. Yet. But they're all really, really, really good albums.

Go to episode 190

Best of 2006: Listeners' Picks

Jim and Greg sounded off on the best albums of 2006 a few weeks ago, and this week it is the listeners' turn. Sound Opinions H.Q. received many calls and emails telling us what Jim and Greg got wrong, what Jim and Greg got right, and what some other great albums were. During this show we hear from just a few of you.

  • John from West Virginia called in to take Jim to task on his choice of Neil Young's Living With War as one of the best albums of the year. He found it to be just terrible and one of the worst albums of the year. But he didn't disagree with everything, stating that he also really enjoyed Lily Allen.
  • Carl emailed his“Top 40”of the year: a very extensive list with great descriptions of each album. His number 1 album was by The Decemberists, but Greg asks Carl to explain why he chose Night Ripper by Girl Talk as another one of his favorites. He says it's“perfect for the no-attention span generation,”and adds that it“kicks ass.”We couldn't agree more.
  • Matt also wrote in with his five favorite albums. On that list were many alt-country bands like The Drams, the Drive-by-Truckers and Glossary. He and Jim also agree that The Raconteurs had one of the best albums of the year. Matt explains that one of the reasons Broken Boy Soldiers is so successful is that it is so concise: 10 songs all averaging three minutes. The short attention span of a listener is something Matt and Jim both agree is still an important consideration in the post-vinyl era.

Thanks to everyone who gave us his or her "Sound Opinion"!

Go to episode 59

Halloween Monster Songs

Every Halloween Jim and Greg like to celebrate with music. And this year they focused on monsters. From vampires to werewolves to Jim's favorite, zombies, here are a selection of tunes for your next monster bash.

Go to episode 361

Turkey Shoot 2015

It's time for the annual Sound Opinions Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot! Each year, Jim and Greg serve up their biggest musical turkeys of the year with a hefty glob of cranberry sauce. They share the albums that they had high hopes for, but ended up letting them down.

Go to episode 521

Best Albums of 2009

Go to episode 211

Greg's Mixtape: A Curse I Cannot Lift

  1. Lindsey Buckingham, "I Am Waiting." A cover of a relatively obscure Rolling Stones track from "Aftermath" sets the mood of sunrise expectation and apprehension.“I am waiting … waiting for someone to come out of somewhere.”
  2. Midlake, "Roscoe." An echo from Lindsey Buckingham's past? The sound is mid-'70s Fleetwood Mac: dusky folk-rock. I can imagine Christine McVie doing a perfect cover of this song. The song is set in 1891, like a dream about a more innocent time.
  3. The Decemberists, "The Crane Wife 3." Still in the past, still dreaming, but the innocence turns to despair.
  4. Dirty on Purpose, "Car No-Drive." Wake up. Morning rush hour. This song sounds like it's pouring from the windows of a passing subway train. We're going somewhere…
  5. Rhymefest, "Bullet." To Iraq. Turn on the TV, and we see young recruits wondering how they ended up in a desert in the Middle East fighting a war they don't understand.
  6. Serena-Maneesh, "Drain Cosmetics." A sandstorm of guitars.
  7. Secret Machines, "Lightning Blue Eyes." Then tunneling out, and into the sunlight where "I felt awake, I was way out."
  8. Parts and Labor, "A Great Divide." A call to arms, a dividing line in the mix, day becomes night.
  9. TV on the Radio, "Wolf Like Me." Silhouettes dash against the moon —“Got a curse I cannot lift.”
  10. The Roots, "In the Music." A sinister night vibe, as low-riders slink through skyscraper canyons.
  11. Nelly Furtado, "Maneater." Where all sorts of nightcrawlers roam …
  12. Justin Timberlake, "What Goes Around/Comes Around." And a reckoning goes down — "I can‘t believe it’s ending this way."
  13. Van Hunt, "If I Take You Home." The night winds down, uneasy partners match up…
  14. Love is All, "Make Out Fall Out Make Up." The hangover aftermath —"I think I'll spend all day in bed."
  15. Gnarls Barkley, "Gone Daddy Gone." "Love is gone away."
  16. John Legend, "Show Me." A morning prayer for guidance.
  17. Beyoncé, "Irreplaceable." And she's ready to move on, a new day begins…
Go to episode 56

Rock Operas

For many music fans, when you hear "Rock Opera," you probably think of The Who's 1969 album Tommy. But, Jim and Greg assert that Tommy is neither the first, nor the best, Rock Opera. Credit for the first goes to S.F. Sorrow by The Pretty Things in 1968. Credit for the best? Well, there's a long list throughout music history, including those listed below. But whatever your favorite, just don't call it a concept album!

  • The Who's Quadrophenia
  • Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
  • Green Day's American Idiot
  • Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger
  • Janelle Monae's The Archandroid
  • The Pretty Things's S.F. Sorrow
  • The Kinks' Arthur
  • Lou Reed's Berlin
  • David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust
  • Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage
  • Pink Floyd's The Wall
  • The Decemberists' Crane Wife
  • Neil Young and Crazy Horse's Greendale
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar

Share your favorite at 888.859.1800, at interact@soundopinions.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Go to episode 455

The Best Songs of 2015: Mixtapes

Before we fully jump into 2016, let's say goodbye to 2015 with the year's best singles.

Go to episode 527

The Best Songs of 2011 - Mixtapes

As 2011 comes to a close, it's a great time to think about the songs that defined the year. Jim and Greg have compiled their favorite songs into mixtapes. During the show you'll hear a small selection, but luckily you can stream both mixes in their entirety. And you can make your own.

Happy New Year from Sound Opinions!

Go to episode 318

Best Albums of 2011

Go to episode 315

Top Albums of 2011…So Far

We're halfway through 2011, which means it's time to get a jump on the Best-Of Lists. Here are Jim and Greg's mid-year best.

Go to episode 292

Best of 2006

Jim

  1. Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Listen to the band's appearance on the show)
  2. Lily Allen, Alright, Still (Listen to the original review)
  3. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (Listen to the original review)
  4. The Decemberists, The Crane Wife (Listen to the original review, or listen to lead singer Colin Meloy's appearance on the show)
  5. Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor (Listen to the original review)
  6. Grandaddy, Just Like the Fambly Cat (Listen to the original review, or listen to front man Jason Lytle's appearance on the show)
  7. Neil Young, Living with War
  8. Peaches, Impeach My Bush (Listen to the original review)
  9. The Dresden Dolls, Yes, Virginia…
  10. Rhymefest, Blue Collar (Listen to Rhymefest's appearance on the show)
  11. Cursive, Happy Hollow (Listen to the original review)
  12. Beck, The Information (Listen to the original review)
  13. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (Listen to the original review, or listen to the band's appearance on the show)
  14. Van Hunt, On the Jungle Floor (Listen to the original review)
  15. The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers (Listen to the original review)
  16. Mission of Burma, The Obliterati (Listen to the original review, listen to the band's appearance on the show)
  17. Tom Petty, Highway Companion (Listen to the original review)
  18. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Listen to the original review)
  19. Secret Machines, Ten Silver Drops (Listen to the original review)
  20. Album Leaf, Into the Blue Again

Greg

  1. TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain (Listen to the original review)
  2. Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury (Listen to the original review)
  3. Mission of Burma, The Obliterati (Listen to the original review, listen to the band's appearance on the show)
  4. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (Listen to the original review, or listen to the band's appearance on the show)
  5. Midlake, The Trials of Van Occupanther
  6. Ghostface Killah, Fishscale (Listen to the original review)
  7. Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Listen to the band's appearance on the show)
  8. Girl Talk, Night Ripper
  9. Parts and Labor, Stay Afraid
  10. Lupe Fiasco, Food and Liquor (Listen to the original review)
  11. M. Ward, Post-War (Listen to the original review)
  12. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Listen to the original review)
  13. Love is All, Nine Times that Same Song
  14. Rhymefest, Blue Collar (Listen to Rhymefest's appearance on the show)
  15. The Decemberists, The Crane Wife (Listen to the original review, or listen to lead singer Colin Meloy's appearance on the show)
  16. Mastodon, Blood Mountain (Listen to the original review)
  17. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (Listen to the original review)
  18. Tom Waits, Orphans (Listen to the original review)
  19. Lily Allen, Alright, Still (Listen to the original review)
  20. Cursive, Happy Hollow (Listen to the original review)
Go to episode 54
rock doctors

David & Family

The Rock Doctors' patient this week is David from Minneapolis. David's“ailment”is that he has a tough time finding music that both he and his kids will enjoy. As the father of four boys between the ages of three months and 10 years, that's quite a challenge. So far he's had luck with The Decemberists, Earth, Wind and Fire and Sugar — basically anything with great pop vocals and harmonies, as well as a good beat for dancing. And of course, some of his sons have fallen under the spell of tween pop star Kelly Clarkson.

Greg's prescription is New Magnetic Wonder, the latest album from Apples in Stereo. The Robert Schneider-fronted band that emerged out of the Elephant 6 collective offers a perfect mix of sunny, exuberant vocals and sophisticated arrangements. Plus, as Greg explains, Schneider is just a big overgrown kid (something that listeners who heard his interview on Sound Opinions can attest to).

Jim prescribes a dose of Smash Mouth. A couple of years ago the California garage popsters, who Jim thinks of as the male equivalent of No Doubt, released a greatest hits album called All Star Smash Hits. Jim explains that, as a fan of garage rock, David will appreciate their edgy aesthetic and punk covers. In addition, his kids are certain to enjoy the more bubble gum aspects of Smash Mouth's music and covers of songs like "I'm a Believer" (which they might already know from the Shrek 2 soundtrack).

A week later David returns to the doctors to report on his health status. He relays to Greg that he and all his sons really enjoyed the Apples in Stereo. He describes the band's music as fun and upbeat, as well as weird and experimental. David's wife was another story, but these doctors only agreed to please five patients… six might be pushing it.

Smash Mouth was something the whole family could agree on, especially for road trips and casual listening. The six year old described it as "a lot like rock and roll." But, David and his boys found the Apples in Stereo to be“meatier”and more interesting. Perhaps we've got four young rock critics in the making!

Go to episode 76

Peter Sagal

This week, Jim and Greg play doctor — rock doctor, that is. They‘ve decided to launch a new experiment where they help a listener in need of musical help. Let’s hope they don't get their licenses pulled. Their first patient is Chicago Public Radio colleague Peter Sagal. The Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me! host listens to the show, but confessed to Sound Opinions that he doesn't always“get it.”Peter is a music fan, but is stuck in a bit of a rut, and has come to Drs. Kot and DeRogatis for some healing.

After their initial consultation, our hosts discover that their patient is a huge Elvis Costello fan. He also digs Tom Waits and Nick Lowe, and has ventured into newer territory with artists like Neko Case and Ben Folds. Peter also reveals that he likes "Jesus Walks," but may be the last person on the planet who hasn't gotten into Kanye West.

Greg cues in to Peter's fondness for singer/songwriters and theatricality. He also notes that much of the music Peter likes has a fairly wry, intellectual sense of humor. So, his prescription includes an introduction to the music of The Decemberists. Frontman Colin Meloy, who was also a guest on Sound Opinions, has a literary, almost Broadway-esque style that Greg thinks might cure what ails Peter. He also suggests that Peter check out the New Pornographers, the band that features Neko Case on vocals.

Jim's first prescription caters to Peter's dark sense of humor. He recommends a dose of the new (and improved, according to Jim) Belle and Sebastian. The Scottish band was always a bit too twee for our host, but on this year's The Life Pursuit, they create a sunnier, poppier sound, though with no less dark a point of view. Jim also instructs his patient to go for it and listen to Kanye West's second album, Late Registration. He predicts Peter will appreciate the rapper/producer's compositions and innovative orchestrations.

Peter followed his doctors‘ advice for a week, and returned to let them know how he feels. He admitted that he enjoyed most of their choices. He has never been a Belle and Sebastian fan, and probably won’t become one any time soon, but he understands why Jim recommended the band. And he tells Greg that he will continue to dig deeper into the The Decemberists and The New Pornographers. But the clear cure here was Kanye West. Peter was absolutely floored by how much he loved Late Registration. He definitely understands what all the fuss is about now. Therefore, by turning their patient on to even one new artist, the doctors can consider their medical experiment a success. They've got one patient in recovery and look forward to healing some more. So, if you or anyone you know needs to consult with the rock docs, please email Sound Opinions and tell us where it hurts.

Go to episode 34