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The Decemberists’ synth-heavy new album is their best in years (stream it)

Decemberists

The Decemberists threw a lot of us for a curveball when they announced that their new album would feature a lot of synths, but it turns out it was exactly the album The Decemberists had to make — I’ll Be Your Girl is their best in years. The Decemberists have always been an above-average band, but after a steady evolution from their 2002 debut Castaways and Cutouts through their proggy 2009 album The Hazards of Love, The Decemberists started losing steam a bit. They released 2011’s The King Is Dead, which was sort of a neatly-presented, easily-digestible version of The Decemberists. It has some great songs (“Down by the Water,” “Rox in the Box,” “This Is Why We Fight”), but it was a little watered down compared to their best work. By 2015’s What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, The Decemberists released their first album that you could call “forgettable.” But I’ll Be Your Girl is the album they needed to shake things up again; it’s the most radical Decemberists album since The Hazards of Love (a folk-rock opera with a noticeable sludge metal influence that’s still kinda underrated).

It does indeed have a lot of synths, but there are still plenty of folk parts, and Colin Meloy’s lyrics and melodies still show a love of centuries-old traditionals. My favorite song on the album, “Cutting Stone,” starts out like the kind of pseudo-traditional you’d find on Picaresque, but after its strummy acoustic intro, gothy synths and a four-on-the-floor drum beat come in, kind of sounding like British folk meeting Thriller-era Michael Jackson, and somehow it actually works. They’ve got straightup synthpop songs like lead single “Severed,” songs that stay closer to their trademark folk-rock like “Sucker’s Prayer,” and some real nice middle ground like opener “Once In My Life.” They’ve also got their first lengthy prog song since The Hazards of Love, the eight-plus minute “Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes.” The Decemberists have always excelled at this kind of thing (“The Tain,” “The Island,” etc), and “Rusalka” is no different. Starting out as a dark, atmospheric song, it goes through all kinds of peaks and valleys, including a sludgy dirge, an upbeat trad-style folk section, moments of jammy psychedelia, and more, which is quite a feat considering how listenable the song is. I’ll Be Your Girl isn’t without its missteps (“We All Die Young” is pretty skippable), but the highs far outweigh the lows and it’s a great thing to be getting music this adventurous from them at this point in their career.

The album is officially out this Friday (3/16) via Capitol but you can STREAM THE ENTIRE ALBUM NOW VIA NPR.

The Decemberists are also touring, including their own Travelers Rest festival, Mountain Jam, Boston Calling, a big Prospect Park show with M Ward in Brooklyn, and more. They’ve also just added more tour dates, including a NJ show at Count Basie Theatre (6/12) happening the day before the Brooklyn show (tix on sale 3/16 at 10 AM). Updated dates are listed below.

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The Decemberists — 2018 Tour Dates
22 Mar 18 The Fox Theater Pomona, CA
23 Mar 18 Arlington Theatre Santa Barbara, CA
24 Mar 18 Innings Festival Tempe, AZ
06 Apr 18 Palace Theatre St. Paul, MN
07 Apr 18 Palace Theatre (2nd night added) St. Paul, MN
08 Apr 18 Riverside Theater Milwaukee, WI
10 Apr 18 The Chicago Theatre Chicago, IL
11 Apr 18 Peoria Civic Center Theater Peoria, IL
13 Apr 18 Ryman Auditorium Nashville, TN
14 Apr 18 Ryman Auditorium Nashville, TN
15 Apr 18 Coca-Cola Roxy Atlanta, GA
16 Apr 18 North Charleston Performing Arts Center Charleston, SC
18 Apr 18 Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre Charlotte, NC
19 Apr 18 Durham Performing Arts Center Durham, NC
20 Apr 18 The National Richmond, VA
21 Apr 18 The Anthem Washington, DC
23 Apr 18 Smith Opera House Geneva, NY
24 Apr 18 Agora Theatre Cleveland, OH
25 Apr 18 Peabody Opera House St Louis, MO
22 May 18 Red Rocks Amphitheatre Morrison, CO
23 May 18 Uptown Theater Kansas City, MO
25 May 18 Hill Auditorium Ann Arbor, MI
26 May 18 Artpark Lewiston, NY
27 May 18 Boston Calling Music Festival Boston, MA
28 May 18 MTELUS Montreal, QC
30 May 18 Sony Centre for the Performing Arts Toronto, ON
31 May 18 Benedum Center Pittsburgh, PA
01 Jun 18 Nelsonville Music Festival Nelsonville, OH
02 Jun 18 Murat Theatre at Old National Centre Indianapolis, IN
05 Jun 18 Iroquois Amphitheater Louisville, KY
07 Jun 18 Mann Center for the Performing Arts Philadelphia, PA
08 Jun 18 College Street Music Hall New Haven, CT
09 Jun 18 The Green at Shelburne Museum Shelburne, VT
10 Jun 18 State Theatre Portland, ME
12 Jun 18 Count Basie Theatre Red Bank, NJ
13 Jun 18 BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival at Prospect Park Bandshell Brooklyn, NY
15 Jun 18 MASS MoCA North Adams, MA
16 Jun 18 Mountain Jam (June 15-17) Hunter, NY
21 Jun 18 Paramount Theatre Seattle, WA
22 Jun 18 Edgefield Troutdale, OR
23 Jun 18 Edgefield Troutdale, OR
26 Jul 18 Les Schwab Amphitheater Bend, OR
27 Jul 18 The Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley Berkeley, CA
28 Jul 18 Montbleu Resort & Casino Stateline, NV
30 Jul 18 Humphrey’s San Diego, CA
01 Aug 18 House of Blues Las Vegas, NV
04 Aug 18 Travelers’ Rest Festival – Day One Missoula, MT
05 Aug 18 Travelers’ Rest Festival – Day Two Missoula, MT
04 Nov 18 Vicar Street Dublin, Ireland
05 Nov 18 O2 Academy Glasgow, UK
07 Nov 18 Eventim Apollo London, UK
08 Nov 18 O2 Academy Bristol, UK
10 Nov 18 O2 Academy Leeds, UK
11 Nov 18 Rock City Nottingham, UK
12 Nov 18 Albert Hall Manchester, UK
14 Nov 18 Grote Zaal TiVre Utrecht, Netherlands
15 Nov 18 Paradiso Amsterdam, Netherlands
16 Nov 18 Astra Berlin, Germany

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