Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Decembrists- "The Island/Come and See"

To begin my look into this song (or these three songs), I want to point out just how well done the song is. It seems that when bands try to be as ambitious as The Decembrists are in this song it does not turn out well. Luckily for us, listeneing to the song seems less a chore and more a privelege. Musically, the song is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, the contrast in the sound of the three parts stands out to me. The first part, "The Island," seems a song that we could hear on the radio, despite it's difficult lyrics. "The Landlords Daughter" though, sounds more like a song that would have been made in the mid to late 70's mixed with a pirate's drinking song. The third part, "You'll Not Feel the Drowning," seems like a strange, morbid lullaby. The fact that the three parts blend so well has much to do with the lyrics used in the song.
The lyrics in "The Island" tell a story of a great adventure, but are also mysterious and make the listener pay close attention. The repeated use of the words "come and see" become a bit of a mantra in the song. In lines like "There's an island hidden in the sound" and "In the lowlands, nestled in the heat" made me as a listener feel as though I was being given the coordinates of some treasure guarded by "Sycorax," who is a mysterious character in herself, which plays into the theme of the song. The song seems not to follow any conventional rhyme scheme. In it's written form, it seems to have a certain pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables, but when sung, that also all but goes out the window, as it is sung in a manner which suggests the singer sings the song in whichever way he pleases, not to fit convention. This may add to the whimsical nature of the song, or it may be there just to drive us crazy as we try to mark the sentences, it could work both ways.
In "The Landlord's Daughter," is very interesting to me as it seems a natural progression from the directions seemingly given in "The Island." As I said earlier, it sounds a bit like a pirates drinking song. The lyrics are very traditionally masculine, as they speak of things such as spying and producing pistols and sabers, then kidnapping the beautiful young girl. Once again, the rhyming and stress of syllables seems to be irregular. The singer does the same things he does in the first song, stressing whichever notes he sees fit to be stressed.
In "You'll Not Feel the Drowning," there seems to be a tone of finality (obviously), as the topic of death is prevalent. To me this could symbolize the end of the journey in the form of death. I see this as the death of whoever the protagonist of the story is. In certain cultures, it is a tradition to place dimes over the eyes of dead. This part of the song has the same sort of irregular rhyme and stress, but the lyrics of it convey a completely different tone than the other two parts. It is much more somber than the other two parts. The biggest reason for that is the repeated line "You'll not feel the drowning." This is a line that really catches the ear of the listener, and is not ambiguous at all in terms of how it is to make us feel as a listener.

No comments: