Severed by Decemberists - 2018 Playlist

Decemberists – Severed

★★★★

Severed was the very first song to catch my attention this year. Apparently, it was also the first song of the year to garner a ticket sale from me as well. My Ticketmaster receipt for Decemberists’ May concert is dated the day after this single’s release! 

Colin Meloy has stated that their album I’ll Be Your Girl was in some ways a reaction to the 2016 US election; if the video for Severed wasn’t enough of a hint. If you haven’t seen it, you can *probably* guess that a certain orangey-hued demagogue plays a prominent role. The video itself reads like a mash-up between Young Folks (still slaps) and a Monty Python collage animation featuring the band’s decapitation by the aforementioned Cheeto.

I’m gonna be honest here, up until recently I had no idea what this song is about. And though my instincts would normally thrust me into the political discourse surrounding any content, this time I just wanna talk about the tune. There will be pleeenty more leftist shouting from me further down the list (forewarning). I was simply intrigued by the band’s transition from traditional folk instrumentation to their heavy experimental synth use (no doubt inspired by the album’s producer, John Congelton). 

While some purists may say nay to this creative side-step, I challenge any Decemberists’ concert-goer to NOT dance to this tune. Danceable indeed, all whilst the theatrical lyricism of Meloy takes on this uncharacteristically aggressive, and dare I say, punk tone. As we millennials may remember from the Bush presidency, the best art comes from political unrest. My hope in this small solace is that the art too has the power to disseminate anti-fascist rhetoric on new ears.

Sorry, I mean it’s dancey. Yeah, dancey. I was certainly satisfied with that element in May when I went down to the Sony Centre to see the band perform. This song’s danceability, as well as the rest of the album, hinges on an unusual but *iconic* element of repetition. Severed, as well as Once In My Life lack the general ambling characteristic of Meloy’s lyricism. I noticed this trend amplified in the release of Everything Now by indie cousins, Arcade Fire, half a year earlier. Now, at first, I’ll admit with both albums, the repetition felt lazy. But now—six months and a year later, respectively—these two albums have been effectively drilled into my mind. Good thing? Sure, if you’re on the side of indie-folk-rock-alternative success. Effective as propaganda? Had they fallen on more attentive ears: apparently/maybe. Either way I’m sure to remember these tunes for the rest of my life.


You can listen to my 2018 year-in-review playlist here.

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