Decembrists strive for ‘barn-like’ sound

For their fifth album Portland Oregon’s The Decemberists have simplified their sound from lengthy hybrids and extended workouts of English folk rock, the most prominent antecedent being Fairport Convention.

The Decemberists: The King Is Dead (Capitol)

For their fifth album Portland Oregon’s The Decemberists have simplified their sound from lengthy hybrids and extended workouts of English folk rock, the most prominent antecedent being Fairport Convention.

The Decemberists have made what they call a barn album as they were searching for a sound that appeared as if it were recorded in a barn. To this end main songwriter and band leader Colin Meloy sounds like he was trying to channel a little of Neil Young’s Harvest album with the aforementioned Fairport and a whole lot of early REM.

In fact, Meloy asked REM guitarist Peter Buck to help out on a few cuts here and Meloy even told Buck he was looking for that rustic REM vibe.

The two songs that really stand out with Buck helping out include Calamity Song (think 7 Chinese Brothers from 1984’s Reckoning) and the folk rock of Down By The Water.

The opening song Don’t Carry It All sounds like a new traditionalist ‘hold your glasses high’ wassail song, while the mellow Rise To Me with its pedal steel and harmonica sounds like the most barn-like song here.

Meloy and Co. also have their best selling album to date with this straight forward album of shorter songs where The King Is Dead made its debut domestically at the lofty No.4 spot.

Hard to tell if they will enjoy a hit single.

B

David Guetta: One More Love (EMI)

This eight-song mini album might appear like a cash grab as all but two of the tracks here are on DJ, producer, mix meister David Guetta’s huge seller One Love of early last year.

But this mini album pares down the songs to the biggest hits with Akon’s Sexy Bitch, Kid Cudi’s Memories, The Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling (here as a new remix) and will.i.am & Apl De Ap’s On The Dance Floor.

All of these tunes are up-tempo club fare which makes me wonder why he didn’t fuse them all into a segued mix.

But the biggest selling point of this, shall we say, ‘milk cow,’ is the new song Who’s That Chick with Rihanna that is already climbing up the charts.

C+

Corinne Bailey Rae:

The Love EP (Capitol)

Her last album came out about a year ago so Corinne Bailey Rae has decided to release and all-cover, five-song extended play titled The Love EP.

This will hold her in good stead with her old fans eager for new material while this romantic EP will also serve as a nice little package for the upcoming Valentine’s day.

It is ironic that Rae’s biggest hit remains her first single Put Your Records On as Rae seems to have drawn on her own eclectic music collection for this diverse set. There is a fine reading of Prince’s early song I Wanna Be Your Lover, while Bob Marley’s classic Is This Love gets a complete R&B makeover with nary a hint of reggae.

There is a cool cover of Tanya Donnelly’s (ex of Belly) alt-rocker Low Red Moon while Paul McCartney’s smash My Love gets a toned down folk/R&B interpretation.

The biggest surprise song here is a 13+ minute live workout of the ’50s hit Que Sera Sera.

A fine little bonbon of an EP even if Rae doesn’t exactly turn these songs into her own despite the makeovers. 

C+

Rod Stewart: The Best Of…The Great

American Songbook (Sony)

In the last decade Rod Stewart has released five of these compilations of old tin pan alley songs, show tunes and ’40s popular evergreens.

If ever there was a cash grab for the upcoming Valentine’s Day it is this 14-song collection that culls tracks already released, except for the hitherto unreleased You’ll Never Know.

I have sort of thought of Stewart’s tackling of the American songbook as something of a semi-retirement job but it is interesting to note that his only No.1 selling album ever comes from one of these volumes—which one eludes me.

Anyway, unlike Vol.5 which was mostly all up-tempo breezy songs, this compilation is designed with maximum romance in mind and while Stewart doesn’t exactly kill these great old war horses, he doesn’t ride them very hard either.

Fans only who have to have that one new song and who prefer love ballads.