The Decemberists: Down By The Water

Flash back to early October, 2009. I was attending the Austin City Limits music festival in Texas with two good friends. The first day had been incredibly hot and sun-drenched and it was a fight to stay cool despite the readiness of misting stations in beautiful Zilker Park.

Then came Day Number Two. That’s when the rain arrived. It poured, it drizzled, it spit. We got wet, we dried off under tents and trees and then went back out and got wet all over again. And the night was capped, at least for me, by a performance by Colin Meloy and the newly strengthened lineup of The Decemberists. I had weathered the gray, drenching day with hopes of hearing favorites like “The Sporting Life,” “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” “The Crane Wife,” “O Valencia!” and on and on and on. But those wouldn’t be played on this night.

Meloy and his group were in the midst of touring to support Hazards of Love, an epic musical tale in the traditionally over-the-top but still pretty awesome style of The Decemberists. And so the band, with a 60-minute set to play, performed Hazards of Love from start to finish before crowd soaked but thrilled to have the rain stopped for the night.

Speaking of over the top, take a look at this video.

I was slightly disappointed all those songs I’d envisioned live weren’t part of the band’s set that night, but I must admit I was still blown away by the power of that live performance. Becky Stark and Shara Worden were stunning, powerful additions, and their separate but equally impressive vocals carried my mood that night.

And now, news that the band will be releasing a new LP, The King Is Dead, on January 18, 2011. And now, the emergence of the first single. Fittingly, for my purposes at least, entitled “Down By The Water.” The song makes good use of Meloy’s harmonica-playing skills, and sounds like a mid-90s alt-rock tune making a triumphant 2010 comeback. There’s no complicated narrative here as has been the trademark of many a Meloy-penned song. Just some rocking out, awesome style.

I still hope to hear all those Decemberists songs I love in concert. Perhaps following another long, rainy day.

Give their newest a listen below.

–Sean

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