When looking back at the accomplishments for Indie Rock mainstays, The Decemberists, one may think that they have little left to prove on their eighth album. However, this group has never been afraid to make the music they want to make, and bring their loyal fans along for every thrilling and unique chorus. I’ll Be Your Girl finds The Decemberists not only comfortable with who they are, but also as an artist willing to paint with new and vibrant colors.
The flowery cover art and liner notes fit the content of the music well as the album shines brightly and helps paint the story on a canvas that fans of the band have grown accustomed to. The first single and album opener, “Once in My Life” starts the listeners’ experience on the LP on a high note with the familiar strumming of an acoustic guitar and the warm, anthemic vocals of singer Colin Meloy who puts everyone on notice that all is not well in the world. Given the current state of the political climate and the honesty portrayed in The Decemberists’ catalog, it’s easy to tune in for the ride the band takes us on for this album.
Producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Future Islands) has helped the band tinker with their trademark sound by bringing in “modern” elements found in today’s scene such as synthesizers and more prominently featured electric guitars that only further captivate the listener during the journey. “Cutting Stone” follows the brilliant single with a simplistic beat and hypnotic keyboards from Jenny Conlee that texture Meloy’s confessional lyrics.
The third track, and second single released from the album, “Severed” is the most modern and different sounding track in the band’s rich discography. The verses and rhythm sections sound like they could have been taken from the Knight Rider television show, yet as a longtime fan of the band, I appreciate their willingness to take a risk and challenge their fans to join them on the trippiest ride yet travelled.
“Starwatcher” and “Tripping Along” are two of the most straight-forward Decemberists songs from the folk legends and if nothing else reassures their core audience that they are still the same band. The latter track swells to a floaty chorus and begs for a singalong when it is eventually performed live.
“Your Ghost” follows these tracks with a frenetic pace and horse-galloping beat that features some falsetto “na na na’s” that may have been more appropriately found on a Queen record. The middle of the record is the most polarizing for the artist as they experiment with the anti-Trump anthem “Everything is Awful,” while “Sucker’s Prayer” finds Meloy admit that “I want to love somebody but I don’t know how. I want to throw my body in the river and drown.”
The stadium ready, stomp along anthem, “We All Die Young” sounds like a mix between The Beatles’ “Get Back” and Gary Glitter’s jock rock hit “(the hey song).” Somehow The Decemberists are cool enough, and maybe old enough(?), to pull off this near-tribute track and get us all to take it semi-seriously.
The clouds begin to gather for the somber “Rusalka, Rusalka” driven by a haunting piano performance and doom & gloom lyrics. It would have been forgiving enough to close the album with the aforementioned track, yet we would have sorely missed the album closer and title track “I’ll Be Your Girl.” This tongue in cheek ballad is a near-perfect way to finish a flawed album that shows a band with plenty of tricks up its sleeves to gain our curiosities for album number nine. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be waiting.