The Decemberists

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Apr 172008

The Decemberists are a group I would think had too unique a sound to either cover well or be covered. I was wrong. First up, the Decemberists cover others:

The Decemberists – Bridges and Balloons (Joanna Newsom)
Meloy’s voice is perfect for this warbling baroque melody, accompanied only by his guitar. Wait…alright, so I’m off to a bad start on my “no Colin solo recordings” pledge, but it’s technically by the Decemberists.

The Decemberists – Think About Me (Fleetwood Mac)
This one comes off of the Portland covers comp, Bridging the Distance, but the whiney, airey female vocals annoy me. The backing is fun though, and if Meloy was singing it, I think it would be much better.

The Decemberists – I’ll Come Running (Brian Eno)
A newish one from last year, the group performed it on the Sound Opinions radio show, and then live subsequently. It sounds the most like an actual Decemberists song of all these. The banjo solo probably helps.

The Decemberists – Little Boxes (Weeds Theme)
Shame on all you readers for not alerting me to the Weeds cover series, where the theme song has been covered by everyone from Randy Newman to Linkin Park. Most just do the 52-second intro clip, but the Decemberists really went into extended jam mode, stretching out past the two-minute mark. Whew.

The Decemberists – Human Behavior (Björk)
I always claim to hate Björk, but songs like this make me think I might have to change my stance. The lyrics are weird, sure, but interesting in their own anthropological way.

The Decemberists – Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush)
Former violinist Petra Haden takes the lead vocals on this number, a bit on the precious side, but with an organ background that gives it a little more oomph.

Others cover The Decemberists:

Kiki & Herb – I Was Meant for the Stage (The Decemberists)
From a cross-dressing twisted cabaret act, this song has me a bit perplexed. It sounds so natural sounding like Judy Garland on Broadway, you can’t quite remember how it was a Decemberists song originally.

Simon Murtha-Smith – Shankill Butchers (The Decemberists)
There’s nothing inherently special about this cover: a whiney white guy strumming an acoustic guitar and singing the song straight. So maybe it’s the quality of the voice, maybe it’s the dedication to the lyrics, or maybe it’s the emotional expression in each line, but I like.

Wakey! Wakey! – Apology Song (The Decemberists)
Best of the bunch, it’s emo combined with a musical in a Ben Folds sort of way. This guy has been doing a series of downloadable covers that have gotten quite a bit of well-deserved attention. Catch up on them here.

Patti Smith – Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect (The Decemberists)
Patti’s Twelve was one of my favorite releases of last year, but she was right to leave this one off the album proper. She’s clearly got great taste in music, but the style doesn’t really fit her voice.

Blanket Music – Red Right Ankle (The Decemberists)
Another Portland group paying tribute to their own, they turn it into a nursery rhyme with what sounds like a toy piano playing the background.

Kevin Davis – Grace Cathedral Hill (The Decemberists)
Hearing Decemberists songs outside of their original context is strange, especially when the performance style is so different. Just two guys with beautiful voices and a quiet acoustic guitar. Better than the original?

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