The Decemberists Early Press
For the latest go here.Â This is a time capsule.
“Mix a half-cup of Jeremy Enigk’s Return of the Frog Queen, two tablespoons Ron Sexsmith and one quart Neutral Milk Hotel. Stir counterclockwise, and you have a serviceable description of Castaways and Cutouts. If that recipe doesn’t make you salivate, consider traipsing out of this kitchen. Masterminded by Colin Meloy, a Portland, OR. resident with a creative-writing degree, the Decemberists create unique narrative (circa, say, 1824) folk-pop tunes about legionnaires, short-lived infants and reluctant mothers-turned-prostitutes. (Meloy reportedly disfavors the standard angsty love themes that permeate most pop music.) Moody organs, creaky accordions and acoustic guitar are employed as Meloy tells his rogue tales with a voice that’s part weathered Englishman and part the singers mentioned in the simmering stew above. At once Old World and New World, “Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect,” “July, July!” and “Leslie Anne Levine” combine compelling English Lit-class lyrics, baroque atmospheres and modern pop catchiness. Slower gems, such as “Grace Cathedral Hill,” and “California One,” flow majestically witha haunting prettiness and the heartfelt resonance of Meloy’s outstanding croon. Castaways is a fresh concoction of charming, artful music. Dig in.
-Magnet Magazine, Oct. 2002
(Five “Devil Forks” out of six — which is “great” apparently. . .) “With all the amazing, innovative palces music has gone in the past 10 years, it still holds fast that there’s nothing quite like a truly talented singer/songwriter. The Decemberists’ vocalist/guitaris Colin Meloy–who is backed up by a band that knows its way around the accordion, pedal steel, upright bass, organ, theremin and drums–is a gifted man with a pure voice that crackles at the most perfect moments. Meloy breaks hearts with his amazing stories, which feature ghosts, soldiers, kings, gypsies, trapeze artists, ladies and sailors. Never wavering in quality, The Decemberists’ folk-influenced pop is brainy, charming and sincere.
-Devil in the Woods Magazine, Fall 2003
“(Castaways and Cutouts) is an album full of soaring, majestic musical interludes and lively lyrical revelations. It’s safe to say that Meloy and his crew have set the stage for a remarkable, and with luck lengthy, career.”
-John Chandler, Portland Tribune, May 31, 2002
“Not since Neutral Milk Hotel’s almost unanimously praised 1998 album, In The Aeroplane Over the Sea, have I come across a record that so beautifully represents the complicated fantasy world of its creator. Like Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Decemberists front man Colin Meloy has succeeded in making a record that — primarily it would seem, because of his powerful yet delicate singing voice — sounds almost uncomfortably personal and intimate. This is a stunningly intelligent record that will hit home on many levels.”
-Mike Conklin, Basement Life.com, Fall 2002
“The Decemberists soothe and lull with stellar songwriting that unfolds in stories–an idea rooted in folk, but pulled from the archaic by atmospheric guitars, soft drumming, and the occasional stringed instrument. Of course, there is the voice of Colin Meloy, scratching and knitting tales and legends like soft blankets for you to wear. There is doubtful a songwriter with a clearer vision in Portland. Prepare to melt.”
Julianne Shepherd, 8.16.01
“Sometimes I like to imagine the world run by the music industry. Presidential choices would no doubt be more colorful (“Don’t blame me–I voted for Calvin Johnson!”), and my fifth grade fantasy that music be played over the intercoms at school would be realized. In this fantasy, local singer/songwriter Colin Meloy is the voice of the revolution, the folk hero. Armed with perfect pitch, brilliant lyrics, and a creepy honesty, his hopeful melancholy is strong enough to move the discouraged masses to overthrow a country owned by Warner Brothers and misguided teenage girls. Mr. Meloy might wellkeep Portland from impending doom brought on by major label brainwashing and Top 40 Party mind control. Besides, Tres Shannon would make a super-duper mayor.”
Chantelle Hylton, Portland Mercury, December 2000
“Colin Meloy is one of the best singer-songwriters in Portland. He balances traditional acoustic crooning and folk storytelling with pop hooks and sauciness that seem neither forced nor derivative. He’s got an awesome voice, always on key (sooooooo important) and never too sugary.”
Julianne Shepard, Portland Mercury, 4.15.01
“OK, normally if you say the word ‘folk,’ I’m running so fast that I’m tripping over my wanna-be-trendy, fat-soled shoes, falling down the street an ddoubling as a jump ramp for a speeding Vespa. Alright, that only happened once, and I was drunk and in a fight with my b-fri, and the folk band only compounded the plethora of severe problems. . .but I digress. In the case of dreamy voiced, smart-guy folkster Colin Meloy, I might just saunter on into the Laurelthirst for a cold one or two. He has thecharm and sincerity of Neil Young, as well as the endearing nasal qualities. I have yet to hear him with his new band The Decemberists, but doesn’t that just make the show that much more exciting?
Katie Shimer, Portland Mercury, 9.21.00
“Portland folk-types The Decemberists offer the accurately titled self-released EP “Five Songs,” promising romantic cabaret shanties and melancholy. “My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist,” anepic of weird Euro-circus intrigue and international espionage, is a real good’un.”
Zach Dundas, Willamette Week, May 2001
“I used to think that, at this point in history, straightforward rock-ensemble songwriting was a waste of time–something done so much since the inception of popular music that there was no way for it to progress anywhere. Then I heard The Decemberist’s new record, 5 Songs, and realized I was being a big fucking snob. Taking elements from folk, pop, country, and the deepest canals of vocalist/guitaristColin Meloy’s heart, The Decemberists make beautiful, straightforward music. They don’t sound derivative, they don’t sound pretentious, they don’t sound like they’re making their music so they can get real big on commercial radio. They sound thoughtful, intelligent, and melancholy. And they have an accordion.”
Julianne Shepard, Portland Mercury, June 2001
Zach Dundas’ profile in the Willamette Week, August 2001: