Under Review: The Decemberists – Always The Bridesmaid: A Singles Series

Speaking to a shoulder-to-shoulder Electric Factory audience (and radio listeners worldwide), Colin Meloy explained that The Decemberists‘ upcoming release, Hazards Of Love, would feature fewer “jaunty” songs than their previous efforts. Not wanting those songs to go to waste, the group has released Always The Bridesmaid, a set of vinyl-and download-only singles over the past two months, with a third coming out soon. The songs hearken back to The Decemberists’ pre-Crane Wife days, with a mix of big, joyous arrangements and introspective acoustic ballads. The six song collection (three A-Sides and three B-Sides, just like the good old days) begins with “Valerie Plame,” which is indeed an ode to the ousted CIA operative. It may seem out of character for Meloy to write about events that didn’t occur in the 19th century, but the “la-la” and “hey-hey” coda evokes a hand-holding-and-swaying campfire as well as any modern folk song. Aside from inexplicably describing New York City, “O New England” features the first mention of rainfall, a theme that carries throughout several of the other songs. The third tune, the upbeat “Days Of Elaine,” is featured in both a short and long version, and is coupled with “I’m Sticking With You,” a Velvet Underground outtake that was originally sung by Velvets drummer Moe Tucker. Tucker’s childlike voice is echoed in The Decemberists’ version as keyboardist Jenny Conlee takes the lead on vocals. The last two songs, “Record Year” and “Raincoat Song” both show off Meloy’s more melancholy side; the first features a mournful string section and the second has Meloy in a duet with drummer John Moen. Here’s to hoping that Meloy liberally lays on the “jauntiness” in the future, and that the songs on Hazards Of Love are just as enjoyable as the ones on Always The Bridesmaid. In the meantime, you can listen to The Decemberists’ show at the Electric Factory whenever you want by clicking here. For the full effect, be sure to sit down on the floor during “The Perfect Crime #2.”

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~ by E. on November 24, 2008.

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