I had never heard of The Decemberists before the release of this album which was in fact their sixth studio album, it was certainly their first to make a big impression here. The album has a very rustic charm to it, focusing partly on the rich physical beauty of the changes in season. Don't Carry It All bears witness to this,
Here we come to a turning of the season,
Witness to the arc towards the sun.
A neighbours blessed burden within reason
Becomes a burden borne all and one.
There is an old time feel to the album but it's not totally based on the American tradition, the influence of the British folk revival of the late 60's is present throughout the album, but it's delicately melded with pedal steel and accordion to give it a more complex sound. Calamity is more upbeat but still with an acoustic focus, it has a more cynical story to tell.
Had a dream
You and me and the war of the end-times,
And I believe
California succumbed to the fault line
We heaved relief
As scores of innocents died.
Rise to me features some nice blended vocals between lead singer Colin Meloy and keyboard player Jenny Conlee, once again principal songwriter Meloy returns to the pastoral settings familiar throughout the album. He is a songwriter capable of rich and thoughtful songs, Rise To Me has a more alternative country flavour. The beauty of the album is it doesn't wear it's influences in an obvious way which is what i like about this album. January Hymn is a tribute to winter, it has a melancholy sound,
On a winter's Sunday I go
To clear away the snow,
And green the ground below
Pale the winter days after dark
Wandering the grey memorial park
A fleeting beating of hearts.
Down By The Water has a deep REM influence, think of the album Green for a pointer. It's like a small town town vignette, dark and sombre. June Hymn for me is the standout track, where January Hymn was more sombre this song is bright and celebratory of all things summer, with some amazing visual lyrics.
A barony of ivy in the trees
Expanding out it's empire by degrees
And all the branches burst to bloom
In the boom
Heaven sent this cardinal maroon
To decorate our living room.
Not sure why it has taken me this long to get around to writing about this album, because I listened to it incessantly when I first bought it. Maybe the early on set of summer has sub-consciously made me return to this record, it's certainly a must listen to.