Gender Roles? The Decemberists Defy Genre Roles.

Mia Tocas, Head Writer

The folk-rock band, The Decemberists formed in 2000 in Portland, Oregon and is currently led by Montana native, Collin Meloy. The band has remained afloat for the last few years through their two previous albums, nothing new but nothing bad. The previous records had a few noteworthy songs but nothing too unexpected. Their latest album, I’ll Be Your Girl is arguably the group’s boldest release since “The Hazards of Love.” The album was released on March 16th, 2018 and it clearly shows musicians who are on the prowl for a new and improved sound. While almost every song in this release flirts with a different genre, the album doesn’t quite take to any category. Although the band decided to ditch their suspenders, their powerful melodies and mystifying lyrics remain a constant. I’ll Be Your Girl signifies the beginning of a new chapter, and the band chose the perfect place to begin again.  

The opening song, “For Once in My Life,” hints at a promising album. The song begins with a simple yet pleasing acoustic riff that the band has used in previous albums. But as the song progresses, the drums kick in. The percussion in this track makes the entire song. They start off slow and timid, and then lead to the best synth melody that Led Zeppelin never wrote. To balance out the instrumental and vocals, the group makes the song uplifting with kisses of melancholy through the lyrics, “I could wait for hours, I could wait and never fall down. Lay us down beside the river, face down by the river.” 

The group strays away from the synthesizer a few songs later, in “Sucker’s Prayer”. This tune is a throwback for The Decemberist’s as it mimics their beginning albums. With its old-school Organ, theatrical choral backing, and bluesy guitar lines, the band evokes a 70s Nashville groove. The Decemberists really outdid Dolly Parton this time. Meloy sets the mood of the song with the lyric, “I was not ready for the road, I was so discontent to wear that heavy load. And so, I got down on my knees and I made a sucker’s prayer,”   

The final and title song, “I’ll Be Your Girl,” draws the album to a close with an unexpected dark-indie campfire tune. This song sounds like Jimmy Eats World meets Mumford and Sons. Meloy’s vocals are emphasized while the instrumentation is diluted, resulting in a 2000s alternative rock vibe. However, the syncopated faint tambourine beats add a dash of foot-tapping folk music. Meloy sings the lines, “And when the tempests rage and all the oceans roar at your door, I could be your man but I’d be that much more,” in a longing voice while harmonies carry higher octave. The contrast between the voices makes for a not-so typical love song.  

Through the entire album it is also evident that Meloy and his mates are willing and able to venture into foreign styles. This quality is essential for a band to have. Even though The Decemberists ditched their past, they still managed to incorporate their iconic lyrics in new genres. This extends their fan-base while also keeping their day-one fans in mind. All in all, this album marks a new beginning for the group and is an introduction into their new genre.  

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