Two and a half releases in less than two years should say something about a band. Add to that an almost freakish attention to detail (with cartoon artwork and an almost re-enactment feel to their storytelling) and you can get an inkling of why so many critics and record labels and simple listeners are in love with this band.
Forget the Neutral Milk Hotel and Robin Hitchcock references, they don't apply to something this genuine and pure. The Palace Brother quips didn't bother Songs:Ohia, same thing here. That it reminds you of the glorious music of Mr. Mangum et al should make you happy, not make you freaking call foul.
This album sounds like a set of sea shanties and World War I songs being played by a group of orphans who stumble on magic musical instruments in a dusty attic in their grandmother's manor house in the country. Fucking unicorns come out and dance with the children until strange hunters emerge from the wardrobe with huge iron blunderbusses full of rock salt and dried prunes. The lyrics veer from wide-eyed wonder to cynical sneer, all the while never cheapening its feel with a sense of irony. Even when he is singing about the treachery of modern Hollywood, with its hollowness and ocean's emptied vomit, Colin Meloy never leaves his place in this timeless land he is singing from.
I loved their first full length and I was worried to get this, their second full length so soon after I had seen them live. I didn't want it to be just the same, and I definitely didn't want it to be any different. What I never expected, yet had always secretly hoped was that it would make the first album even better and still be a total and complete success on its own. Now the Decemberists are no longer a gimmick band, singing oldies like they are new wave hits, they are songwriters who have discovered the secret to time travel and to immortal life, the secret of skill, honesty, and devotion to your art. Huzzah…
- Grant Capes | 2004-01-20