Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Guest Editorial: Mister Toaster on The Decemberists

As The Crane Wife hits stores today, The Toaster Talks original planned to do its ordinary Album Lookout today, editorializing on one of the tracks from this, the Decemberists' fourth full length. Alas, in a moment full of lust and longing, the editorial staff decided to give me the reins and explain why The Decemberists are so near and dear to our collective hearts.

Perhaps its the mere thought that I've followed this band from its first Kill Rock Stars release through currents of critical acclaim and the well-earned signing to Capitol Records.

Perhaps it's the fact that Colin Meloy is such a quirky, cool guy - in person, on stage and in song. (Perhaps it's because he found my hurried, nervous story about having a friend from school who shares his name amusing. Or acted like it.) Perhaps it's his showmanship; his self-deprecating stage humor; his Lennon-like personality.

Perhaps it's that Meloy & Co. are - as far as anyone can tell - the rightful heirs to the Neutral Milk Hotel legacy. The intensity in the songwriting combined with an often awkward mention of body parts (sinews?).

Perhaps it's that they have positioned themselves as the band for the learned, liberal indie music snobs of the world. And the fact that my friends can throw a dance party/sing-along soundtracked only by their albums.

Perhaps it's just that they have yet to let me down - once.

But, on most coherent days, I must admit The Decemberists are my favorite band on the planet. Only under the influence of amazing shows by other artists (New Pornographers, '05, Mountain Goats '05, Hold Steady '06 are among them) do I hedge. Most I know have embraced The Decemberists as well, and I purchased Picaresque for more than 5 people last year.

The first time I realized they had struck such an endearing chord was when "Billy Liar" charted - back when I served as DJ Tanner on ACRN's "Faces For Radio." The rolling, catchy melody and the off-beat vocabulary ("Let your legs loll on the lino!") stuck.

On Picaresque, the band created - as far as I am concerned - the best album of 2005 and the most coherent work of its career. While the album had many stand-outs, you could play me any track and I assure you I'd swear up and down that it was my favorite on the album. "On the Bus Mall" made its way onto DJ Bryan's late 2005 mix and quickly became an emblem for just how perfect that album was.

...which brings us to The Crane Wife. Those of you looking for a long-winded preview are out of luck. We have purposely avoided listening to much beyond the leaked title track (The Crane Wife 1 & 2) or reading much of the critical fawning out there (8.4 on Pitchfork), mostly because we don't want to cloud our thoughts on the album. After all, this is one of the few bands out there still crafting albums. And I supsect we'll be featuring it a bit more near the end of the year, as we wrap 2006 in all its shiny bows.

-Mr. Toaster, Washington, D.C., October 3, 2006

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