Man, those Decemberists are really something. It’s only been a few months since their last release, the epic indie rock operetta, The Tain came out and only a year since their second full length, Her Majesty The Decemberists, was released. Now, Colin Meloy and his merry musicians have even more tunes to offer us lucky fans with the release of their new EP, Billy Liar.
The EP’s title track is the second single from Her Majesty, and just as fun and brilliant sounding as it was when the album was released. It’s likely that interested parties will already be familiar but for those who haven’t heard it, I’ll bite: the tune is a Beatlesque, bouncy tale of a teenage ne’er-do-well, constantly wrapped up in his daydreams. Also included is Her Majesty‘s “Los Angeles, I’m Yours,” a theatrical love/hate ode to the City of Angels.
But the real treats here are the two new b-sides, “Everything I try to Do, Nothing Seems to Turn Out Right” and “Sunshine.” The former begins with a plinky organ riff and Meloy’s lyric of “The film was a bust but we stayed till the end.” The song follows the narrator’s course of action after parting with a lover and the unfortunate incidents that follow, the melody gradually building up into a larger arrangement with swelling Hammond organ and swooning lap steel. It’s one of the group’s most straightforward love songs, simple and lovely and equal in beauty to the best of their album material. The latter, however, is a much shorter, faster little ditty of a tune, folky and quirky in true Decemberists fashion. And as a plus, Meloy rhymes “room” with “Judy Blume!”
It’s hard not to get excited over new Decemberists material, even if it is only two new songs. My brother and I have maintained that outtakes and b-sides are sometimes better than the album tracks, themselves, and this case is no exception. The Decemberists are genius even on their throwaways and any new bit of music from Meloy and Co. is welcome to these ears.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.