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Review

The Decemberists churn out a new, excellent EP in ‘Florasongs’

October 15, 2015

After a four-year break, 2015 saw the joyous return of indie folk band The Decemberists with their seventh album “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.” The album expanded on the minimalist approach of their previous record “The King Is Dead,” with more orchestration while still continuing the use of introspective lyrics and themes that would be fit for a Charles Dickens book.

Following the same routine has their previous albums, The Decemberists have now followed the current album with an EP filled with outtakes from the sessions of “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.” On “Florasongs,” frontman Colin Meloy and his band of folk rock troubadours have picked 5 of the most intriguing outtakes, making for an EP that can easily stand alone. The first track “Why Would I Now?” which was also the first single is a catchy number that finds Meloy assuring a loved one that he has always and will always take care of them. Musically, the song would fit perfectly on the second half of “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” with its straightforward pop rock feel.

The EP continues with “Riverswim”, a somber tune about the doubt and despair in a dying relationship has every characteristic of a classic The Decemberists, to the point where it would fit nicely on their first record “Castaways & Cutouts.” The only bump in the EP comes on the third track “Fits And Starts.” “Fits and Starts” finds the band outside of their comfort zone, experimenting with a more edgy punk rock sound, reminiscent of The Sex Pistols or even Oasis. Overall, the song isn’t horrible but is certainty not the type of lyrical masterpiece that fans of the band have come to expect from Meloy and the structure of the song lacks the complexity of some of their most revered work. However, if the song were found on the album of another band, it would be ranked as one of that band’s best.

The quality of the EP quickly picks up on the next track “The Harrowed and The Haunted,” which opens with a driving, yet reserved, beat played on highly reverbed drums. The reverbed tone of the song sets up almost a swampy feel, which fits well with the song’s story of wanting and distance. The chorus juxtaposes its triumphant melody over the desperate lyrics “will you be there waiting, or is your heart beat fading, fading from the time? Still miles to go until I arrive.” With its swampy and washed out feel, the track finds itself being the strongest on the EP. The EP ends with the stark and minimal track “Stateside.” With just a Stratocaster and the sounds of an airplane cabin, “Stateside” finds Meloy recording one of his most honest pieces, revolving around the longing of his lover abroad. The story is simple and it is one Meloy has used many times before, but he has never sounded so genuine.

The Decemmberists’ latest EP “Florasongs” is not the best collection of songs that the band has put out but is one of their honest and most unpolished records which creates a truly enjoyable listening experience.