Once upon a time, Portland indie rockers the Decemberists were an aesthetic unto themselves. They wrote grandly braying, ostentatiously literate sea shanties about people being swallowed by whales, threw themselves into their narratives in a way that recalls present-day podcast hosts more than indie rockers, and built themselves one of the largest cults in indie rock. But while that sound may have taken them far, they have moved on, and their new album represents a serious shift.
Later this week, the Decemberists will release their new album I’ll Be Your Girl. It’s the first album they’ve recorded with indie super-producer John Congleton, and, perhaps ironically, it doesn’t really sound much like indie rock. The band cites people like Roxy Music, New Order, and Depeche Mode as influences on their new sound. And while their lyrics may be as dense and allusive as ever, the band really does seem to be striving for some bygone notion of synthy arena-rock.
We’ve posted the early singles “Severed” and “Once In My Life,” and those songs should give you some idea of what to expect from the album as a whole. Keyboards shiver, drums pound, and hooks reach for the upper atmosphere. It’s a sound that fits the band better than you might expect. And right now, you can hear the entire album; it’s streaming in full at NPR.
I’ll Be Your Girl is out 3/16 on Capitol.