January 17, 2007

The Very Best Album of 2006 is...

The Decemberists

The Crane W
A concept album like no other, ‘The Crane Wife’ is the latest magical album from this creative Portland band. Growing up in the middle of Montana with nothing to engage his attention other than books, Colin Meloy explored the depths of his mind as a child. Now, the 32 year old is putting all that built up knowledge to use for his indie sensation band The Decemberists. Actually you can lose the word indie in that last sentence, because Capital Records was willing to give the band a shot after the success of their 2005 release “Picaresque”. You wouldn’t think that the bands first major label release would push the envelope any farther than their indie releases did, but I assure you ‘The Crane Wife’ has gone above and beyond any sort of expectation or restriction you can imagine. For me, listening to this album almost puts me in a different time. Tracks like “The Island” and “Shankill Butchers” get me so lost in thought I feel as if I had traveled back in time to a much simpler age. I think the main reason this album is high on my list is because the songs on this album achieve exactly what the artist was trying to convey. The Shakespearian lyrics, the simplistic melodies, the organ, the harp, all of these things combine to form an album that is way beyond its time. The amount of thought and expertise that goes into The Decemberists story telling is astounding. It was made with such ease and polished to shine, yet it is never overbearing because Colin doesn’t try to overdo anything. With the except of his duel with Stephen Colbert. The band had an idea to have their music video for “O Valencia!” made by the fans. The band wanted fans to take footage of them in front of a green screen and use it to put them in some crazy situation. Well Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central news anchor personality, got wind of this. He accused the band of ripping off his idea, daring Decemberists fans to use footage of himself in the Valencia video. The band double dared him back, accusing him of stealing the move from them back in 2005, and challenged him to a guitar battle. Colbert accepted, and after playing a few notes, faked a hand injury and had Peter Frampton play in his place.

Even though The Decemberists are musicians and not comedians, a guitar duel with Steven Colbert is reason enough to make this the best album of the year. Another great reason is the story of the crane wife itself. It is rather hard to understand it from the words of ‘Crane Wife 1 & 2’. A man finds a crane and falls in love with it. Once he does, she turns into a woman, only sh
e still has feathers. She becomes too self conscious and ends up running out on the man, leaving him broken hearted. It is this story telling that makes this album one of a kind.

I had a really hard time deciding between The Raconteurs and The Decemberists for the number one spot. After a long brainstorm, it came down to
one deciding factor for me. I love both albums equally. As far as I’m concerned they are both number one in my book. The only reason “The Crane Wife” tops off “Broken Boy Soldier” is this. Though The Raconteurs are damn near perfect, I can find solace in other bands with a similar sound. There are no substitutes for The Decemberists. You can’t find a band that combines this intimacy and scholarly wisdom with such contagious stories and melodies. In summary, The Decemberists are everything that is good about the music world today. I can think of no other band or album that has come out of 2006 that I would rather have representing this list. Praise be to you, Colin Meloy, for making such an outstanding album.

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