I promised myself to listen through The Decemberists’ whole discography – I had no idea who they were, I just chose a band by random on a list – and it didn’t start off easy. I was about to go through a dense wall of folk guitars, a mission few before had done. It seemed impossible, but I had to do it.
They really sound like their name. Like a long, drawn-out, rainy December day. With a sky filling the world with beige. They’re probably aware of how nerdy their music is. Their fans love when they write a song about a person who has a really nice stone (“I’ll always have my cutting stone”). Lyrical themes like arrows, barrows and healing auras around holy trees. An old maid’s journey from life to death. People who live in forests and carve stuff. Maybe tiny little figurines. I’m making stuff up at this point. But you get it.
I couldn’t really catch an interest for them. Neither did I find any scandals. They’re so pure. The singer Colin Meloy studied creative writing, and now he’s a writer and artist. Perfect. Everyone in the band seem perfect. At this point I was getting furious. I smashed my headphones against the wall and deconstructed my active PA amplifiers in rage, wondering how I could promise myself a deep-dive review on a band this wholesome.
Their music tired me. Why don’t I like it? Am I the one who’s wrong? Am I digesting their art from the wrong direction? I started to question all my choices, plus some choices made by other persons in my near surroundings. At this time I was spending all my days collecting stones and arrows like the people in Colin Meloy’s stories. I was one with The Decemberists, and didn’t even know the difference between me and Margaret from some of the songs. “We’re all one”, I kept telling myself, in a melody that was like an audial average of all songs Colin Meloy has ever written. It was clear that I was going insane.
Some theories propose that the more you’re exposed to something, the more you like it. At the other hand, it’s easy to grow more and more tired of what’s shoved into your face. I’m not sure which of these effects The Decemberists has had on me the most. They’ve actually made some interesting stuff, and have few really bad songs. I love how they’re not afraid to scare off die-hard fans by suddenly switching from folk to country, by making a rock opera or by incorporating heavy riffs and taking a step away from their usual image. And in “I’ll Be Your Girl” from 2018 they’ve added some synths, which is a move I appreciate a lot. Through their 20 year long career they’ve both experimented and repeated themselves, and after listening to a lot of their work I don’t really have anything against them anymore. The Decemberists will always have a special place in my brain (beacuse of the self-invoked over-exposure).