CD Review: Decemberists, We All Raise Our Voices to the Air

Interesting is a prickly word. When I say something is interesting, I usually mean that it is mediocre, but that I am feeling too wimpy to say so. Interesting is a word that I use to coddle someone.

Generally, I refer to live albums as interesting.

Don’t get me wrong: there have been amazing live albums that I will play over and over again. Eric Clapton’s Unplugged and Simon and Garfunkel’s The Concert in Central Park are both unbelievably awesome. But I fear we live in different musical times.

That being said — and at the risk of sounding like an overly pretentious ass — indie-esque music is an exception to this rule. Indie artists do not sell a lot of albums. The only avenue where revenue is plentiful is in live shows. Therefore indie artists must sound great live, or die (metaphorically).

The Decemberists just released a new album, a new live album, entitled We All Raise Our Voices to the Air. This is their first live album. It features many selections from their most recent album The King is Dead, alongside a few other favourites. There are two discs, with 10 songs apiece.

Fortunately, the Decemberists are a talented indie-folk band. Musically, the album is stunning. Only when the crowd starts to howl and cheer can you tell that the album is live. Lead singer Colin Meloy’s voice is lovely as ever and the music doesn’t overwhelm the vocals, which can happen. There is a good rapport with the crowd and Meloy is an entertaining front man. As far as the “live” portion of this review is concerned, the album is very successful.

The music, though, just isn’t as good as the performance. There is nothing wrong with any of the tracks; there isn’t anything great about them either.

For that reason, We All Raise Our Voices to the Air is . . . interesting. The live sound is hearty and the music is worth a listen. But, to be as un-wimpy as possible, there is nothing that makes me want to join my voice to the chorus; instead, I just want to sit back and sway to the lukewarm melody of the acoustic guitar.

Two and a half stars out of five