The Decemberists Songs Ranked

The Decemberists are an American indie rock band from Portland, Oregon. The band consists of Colin Meloy (lead vocals, guitar, principal songwriter), Chris Funk (guitar, multi-instrumentalist), Jenny Conlee (piano, keyboards, accordion), Nate Query (bass), and John Moen (drums). Their debut EP, 5 Songs, was self-released in 2001. Their eighth and latest full-length album I’ll Be Your Girl was released on March 16, 2018, by Capitol Records, and is the band’s fifth record with the label. In addition to their lyrics, which often focus on historical incidents and/or folklore, The Decemberists are also well known for their eclectic live shows. Audience participation is a part of each performance, typically during encores. The band stages whimsical reenactments of sea battles and other centuries-old events, typically of regional interest, or acts out songs with members of the crowd. In 2011, the track “Down by the Water” from the album The King Is Dead was nominated for Best Rock Song at the 54th Grammy Awards. Here are all of The Decemberists songs ranked.

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15. The Engine Driver (Picaresque, 2005)

“It’s about that girl that you want but will never get, for whatever reason. Still, even knowing this, the love that you feel stays. Meloy is shrieking “if you don’t love me let me go”, but the love still stays, despite the fact that the writer has “written pages upon pages trying to rid you from my bones.” A nasty little spot to be in. Part of me is starting to think that there is only ONE character…I’ll post more on that once I think about it some more.”

14. This Is Why We Fight (The King Is Dead, 2011)

“This is one of those songs that, after you hear it enough, it kind of sticks in your head. That’s why I ordered it. Still enjoy listening to it. Not that familiar with other Decemberists music.”

13. Eli, the Barrow Boy (Picaresque, 2005)

“The meaning is pretty obvious. The sound is incredibly haunting. It comes across simplistic but is actually complicated, musically. (The guitar SOUNDS easy to replicate– but when you try learning it it’s more difficult than one would assume.) The emotional impact of the song is the greatest part”

The Decemberists – Picaresque (2005, Vinyl) - Discogs

12. Sleepless (Dark Was The Night, 2009)

“I think this song can be interpreted in many ways but reminds me of the struggle that takes place just before one dies after a lengthy illness. It reminds me of my Grandfather that lay in the hospital “on a pea green sea” and it comforts me that someone was on the other side saying “You’re weary, lay him down You did your time so thank you very much, Hand it over.” “You had traveled to lay beside? A gentle torture to watch it all recede And all the while your mother slept beside him” reminds me of how his family and friends converged at the time to be with him and we even slept with him until the end.”

See more: The Decemberists Albums Ranked

11. Down by the Water (The King Is Dead, 2011)

“Fun, yet predictable and it won’t ever be a classic. But maybe this is what R.E.M. would have sounded like if they hadn’t started to suck (see? You obviously can’t write a review of this without mentioning Michael Stipe or his band).”

10. Los Angeles, I’m Yours (Her Majesty the Decemberists, 2003)

“I think this song is most definitely expressing a love/hate relationship with L.A., contrary to some takes on the song, which seem to hold that the song is about how horrible L.A. is. If you’ve ever lived in or near Los Angeles, you can certainly relate, because while the city certainly has plenty of negatives, it is — in many, many ways — also a great city.”

The Decemberists – Her Majesty (2003, CD) - Discogs

9. The Mariner’s Revenge Song (Picaresque, 2005)

“Just awesome! Lyrics tell such a cool story and I love listening to it again and again just because the tune is so addictive. I love when the melody is so cheery but the lyrics so violent!”

8. The Island (The Crane Wife, 2006)

“An absolute monster of a piece; other than the Tain, the most wildly progressive piece of music ever recorded by the Decemberists.”

7. O Valencia! (The Crane Wife, 2006)

“Seems that The Decemberists have a bit of an issue in picking the best songs of their albums as singles. This one is fine as well, it has an upbeat rhythm and it is pretty catchy, but the Crane Wife has so much better singles that were never released as singles…”

Decemberists, The - The Crane Wife 10th Anniversary Deluxe Box - Vinyl 5LP  - 2016 - EU - Original | HHV

6. The Tain (The Tain, 2004)

“An excellent EP featuring one long track (although in structure it feels more like a medley than one focused song). Almost every part of that one track feels dramatic, engaging, and evocative, and the whole thing feels like it passes by without overstaying its welcome which is impressive for an 18-minute rock song. Ambitious and progy without being overbearing or heavy-handed. Definitely worth repeated listens.”

5. Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect (Castaways and Cutouts, 2002)

“It reminds me a lot of John Wilkes Booth, which is pretty sad on its own. But also it seems like its a ‘happy song’ but somehow something about the way its sung and just how utterly amazing it is makes me so sad”

See more: Fairport Convention Songs Ranked

4. July, July! (Castaways and Cutouts, 2002)

“A fun and joyful song out of their debut. I really enjoy the verses and the melody that leads to the hook, but the hook itself is a bit of a let down. I guess i dont really like the loud energetic hooks done by this band. Still a fun tune to listen to.”

Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect | The Decemberists

3. The Rake’s Song (The Hazards of Love, 2009

“Don’t know them at all, but this song is cunningly fun. However ‘d rather hear even lazier, neuter (generally: ‘i don’t give a fck’) voice during’ the Alright, Alright part (especially as for the opposition to the background shoutin’).”

2. 16 Military Wives (Picaresque, 2005)

“Like others I find the lyrics a little strange, though not to the level of Neutral Milk Hotel – speaking of which, this song reminds me of a great deal. Same marching band brass section and quirky vocal delivery. Very catchy though, almost as good as Holland 1945.”

1. Sons & Daughters (The Crane Wife, 2006)

“I don’t think this song has any real meaning other than trying to capture the optimism of starting a new life. Things will be better, and we’ll make things work. That’s how it sounds to me, anyway. And knowing the band, it’s probably got references to specific pieces of history that I’d have no clue about.”