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The Decemberists: Literate and Charming

The Decemberists.
The Decemberists.

Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy writes hyper-literate pop/rock/folk songs that are just as likely to concern themselves with Chinese trapeze artists and sea captains as they are lost love. The Portland, Oregon-based band favors a complex storytelling approach, in which weirdness and accessibility go hand in hand.

Ever since The Decemberists' 2001 debut, the band's swirling arrangements and dense narratives have earned it comparisons to indie-pop mainstays like Belle & Sebastian and Neutral Milk Hotel. After 2003's Her Majesty The Decemberists helped to further cement the group's sleeper status among fans and critics, 2005's Picaresque made the group a major commercial force.

The new The Crane Wife, The Decemberists' first album for a major label, is loosely based on an old Japanese folk tale, which Meloy first encountered in a children's book. The Decemberists' most ambitious work to date, the record brims over with literate, melodic and charming pop creations, running the gamut from the concise and radio-friendly "O, Valencia" to the sprawling, 12-minute prog-rock epic "The Island."

This segment originally aired Nov. 17, 2006.

Copyright 2007 XPN

David Dye is a longtime Philadelphia radio personality whose music enthusiasm has captivated listeners of World Cafe® since 1991. World Cafe is produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania.