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Picaresque

Picaresque

May 1, 2009

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The Decemberists: New Album
Want more from The Decemberists? Pre-order their highly anticipated 7th studio album What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World and get early access to new tracks.Learn more
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Product Details

  • Original Release Date: May 1, 2009
  • Label: Kill Rock Stars
  • Copyright: 2005 Kill Rock Stars
  • Total Length: 53:07
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B000UTXGWA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,459 Paid in Albums (See Top 100 Paid in Albums)

Customer Reviews

At the most basic level, its just a darn catchy album.
Sair K
Which, it seems, was just the punch that the Decemberists needed in their prior albums, taking their music from good to really, really good.
E. A Solinas
The band's harmonies and melodic lines are very unique and musical.
MegL

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 65 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 3, 2005
Format: Audio CD
The obscure word "Picaresque" is an accurate title for the third full-length album by the Decemberists. If you want to get technical, the word refers to humorous adventure stories, starring roguish antiheroes. Considering the folky pirate sound of the Decemberists' latest -- and best -- album, this seems an appropriate title.

Not that folky-pirate is a NEW sound for them; it's characterized their past music, except for the richly mythic "Tain EP." But the Decemberists amp up their instruments in "Picaresque," making the melodies bigger and louder than before. A few songs like "Espionage" harken back to their previous stripped-down sound, with mainly Colin Meloy and his acoustic guitar. But these are actually the minority here.

From the very first song, the pulse-racing percussive "Infanta," it becomes clear that the Decemberists haven't changed their sound so much as made it faster and louder. Which, it seems, was just the punch that the Decemberists needed in their prior albums, taking their music from good to really, really good. With this amped-up sound, their music seems larger than life.

The songs are also more eclectic than in prior albums, dabbling in accordion sea shantys, bouncy classic-pop, percussive rock, and mild acoustic ballads. The music still centers on Colin Meloy's acoustic guitar, and the lyrics have a feeling of old-world grandeur, sepia photos and dusty literarature. But it's also getting a bit more complex, with strings, drums and accordion often taking center stage.

And the Decemberists get to expand their songs to topics other than, er, acrobats, ships and so forth.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sair K on August 6, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Since buying Picaresque about 2 weeks ago, I think I've listened to the entire album at least 10 times. I think this is the most times I have listened to a single album in its entirety in the last 18 months.

What has compelled me to keep playing Picaresque? At the most basic level, its just a darn catchy album. But there are lots of catchy albums that I'm not listening to all the time. What makes Picaresque more than just a catchy album is that the poppy tunes are layered over rich lyrics and intricate story lines. The Decemberists are known for their theatrically-minded songs often revolving around maritime, sea-faring, Victorian European-esque themes. Picaresque also maintains this theme (especially in The Mariner's Revenge Song, which is one of my favorites on the album). However, as has been noted in most reviews of this album, Picaresque deals with a number of modern themes, particularly (as most everyone who has heard the album has noted) Sixteen Military Wives, clearly an anti-war protest song. However, despite tackling more modern themes, the album maintains its sound.

I've always felt the Decemberists were sort of old-worldy in a hip rock and roll sort of way. I think I had this impression before I saw them live on New Year's Eve 2003, all decked out in 1920's style tuxedos and dresses (the drummer and keyboardist/accordionist are both female) with their bassist playing a stand-up bass rather than a rock and roll electric bass. However, in listening to past Decemberists albums I've had a hard time putting my finger on the definitive aspect of their sound that gives them this "old-worldy" feel. Obviously the subject matter of many of their songs drives this impression, but I was struck that even when singing about "modern themes" they maintained this sound.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By -> on April 10, 2005
Format: Audio CD
The Decemberists- "Picaresque"

Corey Fry/ Music Review

Perhaps if they weren't so darn theatrical, they'd be the next R.E.M. or something (and singer Colin Meloy pulls his best Michael Stipe in a couple of new songs), but they simply must reinforce the campy elements of their persona like a smiling clown with a painted frown. Heck, the only time the past two weeks anyone has bothered to call my radio show was when I played "The Sporting Life" or "We Both Go Down Together," two of the marvelous tracks from the equally stupendous album, wanting to know who was that band.

The Decemberists thrive on simple melody, intriguing, beguiling tales of periodical costume dramas, and more high end vocab words than you can shake a thesaurus at-Meloy is the best thing to happen to dictionary salesmen since tomato was spelled with an "e." The secret weapon is still the accordion, a highly useful, extremely practical instrument that is possibly the most underrated instrument out there (if there is such a thing).

They kick things off with a sort of "coming to Africa" tale about an infant princess (or more accurately, as the song is titled, an "Infanta") being paraded about on elephants through crowds of worshipers as she dreams of "quiet streams." A high horn calls attention, immediately followed by locomotion-like attack drums before Meloy breaks in with his clean, fey proclamation: "here she comes!"

Curiously, they take us back home on this album, with the middle section set of songs- "The Sporting Life," "The Bagman's Gambit," "16 Military Wives," and "On the Bus Mall"- reading like a broad swath of various contemporary American issues.
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