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The Decemberists - Picaresque CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

3.60 | 73 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
3 stars This third album by the Decemberists sees the indi-rock darlings escalating the bombast and artistry of their nuanced, hand-crafted songs and stories. The result is a strong show of the band's unique sound and identity that shows progression from their previous two works, and feels like a warm up for the two excellent albums that follow. Taken by itself, Picaresque is an album of stand alone songs that sometimes captivate, sometimes romance, sometimes poke fun at, and sometimes miss the mark, making for a good but not essential prog-folk experience.

The opener "Infanta" is a huge, bombastic, and upbeat attention grabber with a Spanish flair. It's pretty good, and may be a prog fan's highlight of the album. However, it's hardly representative of what follows. "We Both Go Down Together" is a sing-songy tune with an abundance of Meloy vocals and violin counter melody. A good example of a song that has a few moments of appeal but doesn't quite work as intended. We're given songs that are playful and charming, melancholic and sorrowful, and even ambitious balladry like "Bagman's Gambit". This song is another good example of a mixed bag; the composition has numerous dynamic shifts and nuance, but doesn't have the emotional "umph" to resonate. "Mariner's Revenge Song" is better, thanks to its reliance on acoustics and occasional moments of intensity. Ironically, the excellent instrumental performances and nuanced vocals of later albums haven't quite developed yet, but the album retains a strong sense of presence and fun despite this.

For me Picaresque is at its best at its most extreme: very ambitious and "forte," or very acoustic and sensitive. There is too much middling to make this more than a 3-star prog folk release. Those curious about the band should check out the much better albums that follow first, and temper expectations if working backwards.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 2 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Prog Leviathan | 3/5 |


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