Veteran indie rockers The Decemberists, helmed by frontman Colin Meloy, officially released their eighth full-length album I’ll Be Your Girl on March 16th, and while it showcases Meloy’s enchanting vibrato and occasionally conjures a vaguely maritime aesthetic, it veers off-course of traditional Decemberists material in most ways. The band utilizes milky, spacey synths on several songs, and “Severed” in particular revolves around a pulsing synth line that sounds like it belongs on a late-night club DJ’s playlist.
I’ll Be Your Girl marks some stylistic changes for The Decemberists, but overall results in feeling a little lackluster compared to earlier releases–“Starwatcher” is particularly dull, failing to commit to either an ethereal minimalism or dense excitement, and Meloy seems to have adopted a penchant for repetition, singing “everything” so many times in a zealous bouncy melody on “Everything is Awful” that you might find that you hate the word when it’s all over. But this is a common thread on the album: upbeat, buoyant melodies with track titles of “Everything is Awful” and “We All Die Young.” Meloy shines in his dark songwriting, choosing his first words of the album “oh for once in my life / could just something go / could just something go right?” on opening track “Once in My Life.” His gloom hovers above sugary instrumentals throughout the album, straying from the epic journeys of folklore often employed as The Decemberists’s lyrical content (we never actually learn why everything is awful, but it seems like a summary of what Meloy is trying to express on I’ll Be Your Girl). On “Tripping Along” he sings “what I would do to lie with you, die in your arms” and on “Sucker’s Prayer” “I want to love somebody but I don’t know how / I want to throw my body in the river and drown.”
The Decemberists make sure to incorporate enough of their signature bizarre ear-catchers on I’ll Be Your Girl, like the high-pitched “na na na na na’s” on “Your Ghost” or the children’s voices on the chorus of “We All Die Young,” anchors to their off-kilter image as they experiment elsewhere on the album. The latter has a big-band, Western feel, with a featured saxophone, stomping and clapping, and a sonorous chorus. “Sucker’s Prayer” similarly contains prominent, saloon-ish piano lines and has a rockin’ guitar solo to boot, a dramatic shift from the ’80s-era synths that characterize the beginning of the album. The Decemberists slow it down on penultimate track “Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes,” an eight-minute apocalyptic epic reminiscent of their most popular material; oozing with drama, it swells gradually, solidifying itself as the most rewarding track of I’ll Be Your Girl, as it sticks out from its preceding short tracks which often leave you wanting more.
Overall, I’ll Be Your Girl is not an album that will make waves, but is a solid addition to an 18-year-old band’s discography. Colin Meloy still has his beloved chops and is rife with poetic ideas, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.