Writing Music #2: Oh, How The Decemberists Weave Tales

In my first post on music, I wrote about tracks that inspire flow while writing. Just as priceless are songs that weave tales that themselves inspire writing. It's hard to pick among singer-songwriters, but I'll start with my unabashed ode to The Decemberists.

Lead singer Colin Meloy can WRITE. There's an entire website for How To Write Colin Meloy Lyrics. It claims that The Decemberists' songs read like great works of literature, and for the most part, I agree.

For starters, there's the drama, the epic melodrama. The Decemberists' fifth album, The Hazards of Love, is a fulsome rock opera and fantastically tragic love story. If you want all the drama in a single song, try "The Mariner's Revenge Song" -- which opens with two men in the belly of whale and closes with the croning words, "Find him, bind him, tie him to a pole and break his fingers to splinters, drag him to a hole until he wakes up naked, clawing at the ceiling of his grave." Yeah, it's so intense it inspired this fan's elaborate comics version.

Then there's the vocabulary of unrivaled bravado. In multiple songs, they manage to use a dozen words I'd never get away with in a novel. For example, listen to "The Soldiering Life" and feast on the words:  bowery tuff, pantaloons, bombazine doll, dungarees, and more. These guys know how to paint a scene with spare words. They even make it sound good.

And I am a writer, writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home.
And I’ve written pages upon pages,
Trying to rid you from my bones.
— The Decemberists, The Engine Driver

As you can guess, I've been a fan for many years. But lately, as I've dug more into the craft of writing, the brilliance of Colin Meloy has really hit home. My favorite lyrics of late are from "The Engine Driver" -- shown to the right. Whether it's a person, a memory, or an idea, I think every writer is trying to rid something from their bones.

I'll leave with a video that shows Colin Meloy at his singing, storytelling best:

Make your words count, like Colin does -- J.B.