The Decemberists Castaways & Cutouts

[Kill Rock Stars; 2003]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: folk-pop, indie pop, chamber pop
Others: Neutral Milk Hotel, Grandaddy, Kings of Convenience

Modern indie pop music has found its new hero. Hidden in the shadows of The Decemberist’s Castaways & Cutouts exists a lead singer by the name of Colin Melloy, the eccentric and beautiful vocalist that is going to join Jeff Magnum at the top of the indie pop ranks. Though his delivery is somewhat similar, Mr. Melloy embraces a variety of subjects from the yesteryears through detailed and approachable characters such as prostitutes, soldiers of war and abandoned children. Each story is sung with passion and conviction making this record irresistible to remove from your heavy rotation. His lyrics are incredibly poignant and are performed with raw and powerful emotion. And even though the subject matter may be sombre at times, The Decemberists keep the record sounding refreshing, upbeat and fun.

Castaways & Cutouts will definitely be compared to Neutral Milk Hotel’s Aeroplane Over The Sea. And it should be due to the fact that this record is as good if not better then the admired Neutral Milk Hotel classic. The instrumentation is fundamental pop music with a smidgen of folk and rock accompanied with an array of different arrangements that include piano, upright bass, accordion and organs. This luscious groove makes a perfect companion to Colin Melloy’s vocal delivery. The mood shifts drastically from gloomy to joyful on many occasions during the record keeping you fascinated with each passing song. 

“July, July!” is a purely upbeat, melodic fun folk song while “Leslie Anne Levine” is a chilling and memorable pop ballad. And on “Odalisque”, definitely the albums stand-out track, The Decemberists employs every song style imaginable by opening with an acoustic, slow tempo and continually progressing through the song with fierce determination creating an up-tempo ending that will leave you astounded at the sheer musical ability of this group. There is not an inadequate moment on the entire album.

Castaways & Cutouts is The Decemberists’ first full-length album. Led by Colin Melloy’s distinguished voice, they have created a pop album worthy of any attention it attains. So as summer is near at hand, pick up this album and I dare you to remove it from your player. It will be almost as difficult as waking up to go to work after an all-night party that ended at four in the morning.

1. Leslie Anne Levine
2. Here I dreamt I was an architect
3. July, July!
4. A cautionary song
5. Odalisque
6. Cocoon
7. Grace cathedral hill
8. The legionnaire's lament
9. Clementine
10. California one/youth & beauty brigade