After a six-year hiatus from releasing new music, The Decemberists are back with a new single “Burial Ground” out today. With its infectious horns and jangly guitars, the song becomes a hit with listeners right away, as James Mercer of The Shins provides backup vocals whilst lead singer Colin Meloy’s consistently astute lyrics drive the track forward.
Meloy describes “Burial Ground” as “a paean to hanging out in graveyards,
“The melody hook came to me in a dream and I hummed it into my phone on waking. Most dream-songs are bad; this was the exception.”
In the spring and summer, the Decemberists will embark on a massive North American tour. The tour will begin on April 30th at the Ulster Performing Arts Centre in Kingston, NY and will conclude in August on the West Coast.
Some of the more notable venues are the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre on May 3rd, Chicago’s Salt Shed on May 21st, and Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on May 24th. On August 3rd, the band will play McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon, marking their triumphant return to their hometown.
The Decemberists have been a cutting-edge, exciting, and innovative American rock band for twenty years. The Decemberists’ unique brand of hyper-literate folk-rock was evident from the release of their debut EP 5 Songs in 2001. The band was formed in 2000 when guitarist, singer, and songwriter Colin Meloy relocated from Montana to Portland, Oregon, where he met bassist Nate Query, keyboardist Jenny Conlee, and guitarist Chris Funk. Castaways and Cutouts was the band’s 2002 full-length debut. Following that, they signed with Kill Rock Stars and released the critically acclaimed Her Majesty the Decemberists (2003) and Picaresque (2005), both of which were produced by Chris Walla. The Tain, the band’s 18-minute epic single-track EP from 2004, revealed their lofty creative goals.
With the addition of drummer John Moen, the band’s permanent lineup was complete around this time, and in 2006, they made the surprising move to Capitol Records for their first album on the label. Fans’ fears that the band would stray from their signature sound were allayed with their most daring and ambitious record to date, The Crane Wife. Walla and Tucker Martine, who would later become a longtime collaborator, produced the album, which included a song cycle that incorporated elements of hard rock, quasi-disco, and ’70s prog. The New York Times, Rolling Stone, SPIN, Stereogum, and Pitchfork all gave the album high marks.
After three years, Meloy’s full-length concept album, The Hazards of Love, which was inspired by a stage musical, reached the Top 20. The King Is Dead, their first album to reach number one, was released in 2011. It contained the GRAMMY-nominated single “Down By The Water.” After the success of 2015’s What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World, which featured the single “Make You Better” that peaked at #1 on the AAA radio charts, the Decemberists collaborated with producer John Congleton to experiment with new sounds and production techniques for their eighth studio album, I’ll Be Your Girl (2018). According to NPR Music, “I’ll Be Your Girl captures a collaborative spirit that keeps the band sounding vibrant and alive.” This means that even The Decemberists, a band whose records have always come bursting with verve, need to refresh and reconsider their sound at some point in their careers.
In addition to founding Travellers’ Rest, a festival in Missoula, Montana, that they curate themselves, The Decemberists have performed at innumerable major festivals during the last two decades of their career. You might recognise the band from their appearances on The Simpsons and their work with Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton. They even put out a board game called Illimat, which they crowdfunded. Colin Meloy, who also sings lead, has written several books, including The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid, the Wildwood Chronicles, which were bestselling in the United States and internationally, and two picture books, Everyone’s Awake and The Golden Thread: A Song for Pete Seeger. Carey Mulligan, Angela Bassett, Jermaine Clement, Tom Waits, and Mahershela Ali are among the actors expected to appear in the upcoming animated film adaptation of Meloy’s Wildwood Series.