In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 27 is The Decemberists.
The Decemberists are great storytellers. The fact that they tell their stories via folksy, rootsy rock songs is a bonus. Unlike the majority of the bands and songs that have and will find their way onto my countdown, The Decemberists’ best work comes when there is considerable distance between narrator and subject matter in their songs.
Take, for example, “The Crane Wife 1 & 2” and “The Crane Wife 3” from the band’s 2006 album The Crane Wife. The songs are based on an old Japanese folktale. I had never heard of the tale before, but I could not imagine a more beautiful retelling than The Decemberists’ interpretation, which mixes lyrics and instrumentation flawlessly. “The Crane Wife 1 & 2” is the less popular of the two tracks. Clocking in at 11:20 it feels like parts one and two of an emotionally stirring epic tale. Cue the opening guitar of “The Crane Wife 3.” Although this track curiously leads off The Decemberist’s album, I find it more fittingly (surprise!) as the direct follow-up to “The Crane Wife 1 & 2.”
If you’ve never heard of The Decemberists, “The Crane Wife 3” is the place to start. I have yet to find a time when I have heard this song pop up on shuffle—whether working at home, at the gym, hosting a party—when I felt inclined to skip it. It’s a song for all situations, a song for all seasons.