January 31, 2018 / 12:00 pm

Single Watch: The Decemberists “Severed”

Release Date: 1/17/2018
Album: I’ll Be Your Girl (out March 16, 2018)
Rating: 5/7
Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting this. The Decemberists have been working on an album for this spring, and I got to hear a few of the potential tracks for this album live last spring. Based on those, I figured this album would be another jaunty, country-folk-esque album in the vein of The King Is Dead. “Severed” is very decidedly not that, nor is it close to anything else that the Decemberists have ever made. This is uncharted musical territory for a band that’s been releasing music for 17 years now, and that’s an exciting sign for where the new album is heading.
Before all this talk of uncharted sounds scares off any traditionalist fans of the band (can a band that’s explored so many sounds and styles already even have traditionalist fans?), “Severed” is still, at its core, very much in the mold of previous Decemberists work. There’s Colin Meloy weaving his usual darkly poetic tale, the layers upon layers of instruments, and the usual fantastic backing vocals. The formula is the same, but the ingredients put into that formula are changed drastically here. The most immediately noticeable change is the addition of the bubbly synth beat that drives the entire song, but there’s also a ton of fuzz on the rest of the instruments and a heavy echo on Meloy’s vocals. It comes out sounding like the Decemberists have decided to start making the soundtrack for a new version of Miami Vice, and somehow it works. I’m not entirely sure how an entire album of this kind of sound will play out, or how it will work if they try and mix and match this with songs that approach their more traditional sound, but I’m excited to see how it works out. In any case, a band known for its acoustic guitars, organs, accordions, and other carnival folk-esque instruments deciding to announce their new album with a lone synth starting the song is a bold move, and I think it’s paid off.

Check out the music video for the new song below: