The Decemberists Five Songs EP

[Hush Records; 2003]

Rating: 4.5/5

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

I’ve always enjoyed music that evokes feelings of lukewarm summer evenings. Cold wintry days always seem to bring me down to a level I quickly want to be removed from. Instead, I take pleasure in evenings where the sun seems to never want to hide itself behind the horizon. The kind of evening that just doesn’t seem to come around too often in my neck of the woods. Coming from the Midwest, I’ve always had the ability to take long drives down the highways and countryside simply for the sake of my own enjoyment. The Decemberists are a band that incorporates images of all these feelings. If you’ve read any of my music reviews in the past, you know that although I’m not the biggest fan of country music, per se, I am a true believer in the steel guitar. I’ll even take it in the format of a pedal steel if that’s all I can get. The steel guitar has just always had the ability to express true heartfelt sorrow and beauty to me.

With their Five Songs EP, The Decemberists have showcased steel guitarist Chris Funk to send the majority of this morsel straight into the pearly gates of carefree rock heaven. “Oceanside” opens with perfectly strummed acoustic guitars that are married with Colin Meloy’s unobtrusive, yet confident, vocals. If you give him some time, he’ll even show you that lyrics are still important to music in a time of instrumental bands. “Shiny,” the next song, is such a terrific song. To be honest, it’s one of the nicest damn songs I’ve heard in months. The chords that have been used seem to say so many things by themselves, and the steel guitar is the true star. How could anyone feel bad when listening to a song such as this one? It seems to be the mold that all others have copied. The same could be said for the next song, “My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist.” It has the same vibe as the previous track, and makes me wonder how these guys could know exactly what I like in my music. It’s easy to see why they have received so much critical acclaim for their album Castaways and Cutouts.

The Decemberists will captivate you with their innocent and introverted sounds. Nothing here is forced, nor will it sound forced upon you. In a time when there is so much turmoil and hatred in the world, it’s almost imperative that artists like this make music to remind us of a more simple time. This is also the type of music that tends to bridge the gap between today’s music, and music the baby boomers enjoyed two decades ago. Although there are only six tracks here (go figure), I’d say this is a purchase that is worth every penny spent.      

1. Oceanside
2. Shiny
3. My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist
4. Angel Won't You Call Me
5. I Don't Mind
6. Apology Song