Best tunes of 2002: #19 The Decemberists “July! July!”

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Sit right back on that comfy white leather sectional there and let me tell you the tales of all my previous dwellings. Not where we currently sit in the lovely home that was built for us out in the suburbs over twelve years ago, where we saw a community rise up around us, displacing wetland flora and fauna and welcoming the usual suburban wildlife.

No. I’m talking about the litany of apartments, starting with the two bedroom unit on the third floor of a low rise, where the radiator heating never truly worked and our landlords would hand us electrical heaters to supplement. And before that, the low rent, basement apartment in which we could always hear our landlords yelling at each other above us. The beautiful but tiny, tiny, tiny one in Sandy Hill (an area that is a mix of students and embassies) that was our first apartment in Ottawa, where my wife wrote countless papers for her masters degree and I tried not to get in her way.

And prior to that, a one-bedroom in Ronces in Toronto, the only apartment in which I lived alone, well, not alone, truly, because my cat Lucy spent more time there than I did. Then, there was the two-bedroom, railroad style apartment that I lived in for two years at Bathurst and St Clair with two different roommates, Ryan and Chrissy, consecutively, not concurrently. And I’ll stop this list with Armenia, the nickname me and my roommates gave the three-bedroom apartment that we all lived in just off campus to finish off our degrees in at York University. That place that saw more than its fair share of parties, laughter, and heartbreak.

“July! July!” is track three on The Decemberists’ brilliant debut album, “Castaways and cutouts” and it is, reportedly, Colin Meloy doing what I just did there but in song form and only speaking about one of the places in which he lived.

“This is the story of the road that goes to my house
And what ghosts there do remain
And all the troughs that run the length and breadth of my house
And the chickens how they rattle chicken chains“

Colin Meloy has said that the song is about the place he was living in at the time of writing for this first album and that the place was an old slaughterhouse. That he imagined it was haunted by the ghosts of the chickens that had lost their lives there and that he wrote about it could be a nod to Neutral Milk Hotel, a band with whom The Decemberists were certainly oft compared in their early days, and their song, “Ghost”, off “In the aeroplane over the sea”. But Meloy and his Decemberists weren’t ever just about simple mimicry. They have always added their own touch and twist to the legends and the traditions that they mined.

“And we’ll remember this when we are old and ancient
Though the specifics might be vague
And I’ll say your camisole was sprightly light magenta
When in fact it was a nappy blueish grey“

Here, Meloy plays on memories and how we distort them over time. Our lense on the past changes with the winds of time, rosy and cheerful or black and bleak, depending on our mood or character. Meloy is obviously of the former, choosing the ‘sprightly’ remembrance over the ‘nappy’. He and his players accompany the words with only peppy drumming for the first few bars and then the organs kick in for a wild dance. Yeah, for a song about chicken ghosts and gut shot, crooked French Canadians, it’s a chipper track, perhaps the most upbeat track on the album, and all tied up neatly in a bow at just under three minutes.

Enjoy your Saturday all!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

 

Vinyl love: The Decemberists “Her majesty…”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Decemberists
Album Title: Her majesty The Decemberists
Year released: 2003
Year reissued: 2008
Details: 180 gram, black vinyl

The skinny: Happy Monday all! It’s the last one of the month and it seems like as good a time as any to talk up the final Decemberists piece in my vinyl collection (for the time being). The indie folk stalwarts released their sophomore album, “Her majesty” back in 2003 and frontman Colin Meloy was truly at his literate and dramatic best. Just have a peek at the bonus short story included on the liner sleeve of this 2008 re-pressing by Kill Rock Stars. Yeah, you know that I still recommend these guys to anyone for an appreciation for the written word.

Standout track: “The soldiering life”

Vinyl love: The Decemberists “The Tain / 5 songs”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Decemberists
Album Title: The tain / 5 songs
Year released: 2004
Year reissued: 2008
Details: 180 gram, black vinyl

The skinny: …And speaking of The Decemberists… In 2004, a year before releasing their final indie album, “Picaresque”, The Decemberists released an EP that was just one long 18 minute song, albeit in five parts, that took for its subject a Celtic myth. A few years later this EP was coupled with their first ever EP, 2001’s “Five songs”, and released on 12” vinyl, an EP on each side. I found a copy of this compilation pressed to 180 gram vinyl on one of my many trips to Vertigo records and couldn’t not buy it. If you’ve got twenty minutes to burn, have a listen and watch of the video below. It’s good stuff.

Standout track: “The tain”