“Severed”, the single off the Decemberists’ latest record I’ll Be Your Girl, already sounds distinctly different than their past work. Colin Meloy’s weathered yet sturdy voice is still there, but everything else around it – notably the synths – means there’s a bit of whiplash you have to deal with, and it’s one that last for a while. “This is the Decemberists, right? Yes. Really?” Yes. It’s nice to see the group take some sonic risks after arguably settling down on a formula for the past few records, but I’m not sure they did it right this time. It isn’t necessarily a bad decision: there’s merit in merging their homey folk with some driving 80s-era synths. But in their experimentations the Decemberists’ newest set of songs feels formless. It doesn’t know what it wants to do, so it pushes and pulls aimlessly. Were they trying to, ehrm, dumb things down? They have also specialized in intricate, dense albums – but then there’s the eight-minute “Rusalka, Rusalka/The Wild Rushes”, which sounds like your typical Decemberists record, both lyrically and structurally. But then, the damn synths, they rendered that epic a bit, again, formless. [NB] | 3/5
We’re closing up shop for another year, which means our obligatory look at the year that was – and, like in the past two years, it’s in the form of ten songs, arranged alphabetically by artist. And it’s been an interesting year, indeed. Pop music was, once again, no longer a guilty pleasure. The much-anticipated comeback of guitar music did not happen, but we had some genre-pushing, if not outright weird, alternative anyway. We’ve seen new acts make a legitimate splash, but it wasn’t for the sake of a new voice. We’ve seen old acts make triumphant returns, but nostalgia wasn’t the biggest thing. Things have not settled down to the way people want it to be (and that could mean anything depending on who you ask) but things have never looked this good in recent years either. It is weird. Interesting, but weird.