Jesse Jarnow

“clementine” – the decemberists

“Clementine” – The Decemberists (download here)
from Castaways and Cutouts (2002)
released by Hush (buy)

(file expires on June 27th.)

At first, I thought I liked The Decemberists because they sounded like Neutral Milk Hotel. As Colin Meloy’s surreality transformed into theatricality, though, I realized that it wasn’t Meloy’s Magnumtude that did it for me (though it was a fine entry point), but — on Castaways and Cutouts, anyway — the understated loveliness with which he delivered. “Clementine” is weary and beautiful. It’s folky and plain and uncheeky in a way that seems increasingly foreign to The Decemberists’ recordings. But forget what they’ve become, ’cause this is just great. Meloy sounds tired, and the song comes out a lullaby, as much as for the singer as for the audience. The pedal steel is well used, avoiding staid country tropes, and blending warmly with the accordion to create something unique. I think it is time for bed.