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We All Raise Our Voices to the Air
The Decemberists We All Raise Our Voices to the Air (Live Songs 04.11-08.11)
Released 9 March 2012
Label Rough Trade
Length 126:00
Genre Folk, indie
Website decemberists.com

Colin Meloy’s idiosyncratic folk rockers The Decemberists return with an epic, two disc live set culled from performances across their 2011 world tour, featuring songs from twelve shows recorded across the breadth of North America. The tour came on the back of the hugely successful The King Is Dead album, which was released at the start of the year, storming to number one in the US Billboard Top 200 and culminating in a Grammy award nomination for Best Song for 'Down by the Water' and reinforcing the Oregon collective as one of the most popular left-field folk acts of the last decade.

We All Raise Our Voices to the Air, true to its self confident title, has the mark of a band who are hitting their creative peak, and are intent on proving just why they have come to have such a formidable reputation on the live stage. With the band reportedly ready to go on an extended hiatus, it serves as a kind of retrospective of their first six albums and a showcase of just where they have got to since their formation in the early 2000s.

Decemberists concerts are renowned for their energy, humour and almost carnival atmosphere, as their elaborate folktales often seek to draw in the audience. They thrive on the participation of the crowd, as is evident here throughout the sprawling two hour collection, nowhere more so than on final track and concert closer 'The Mariner’s Revenge Song', a beguiling tale in which the band sign off by encouraging the audience, en masse, to scream as if they are being swallowed by a whale. It is a wholly original conceit, and it is a testimony to the group’s skill that they manage to pull it off without seeming corny or overindulgent, but rather it adds to the listener’s sense of the communal atmosphere and occasion at a Decemberists gig.

As with any live album, this collection will divide listeners. The casual fan can approach it as a best of compilation, and if willing to afford it time and patience, will be rewarded by an introduction that I feel gets to the kernel of exactly who the Decemberists are, and may spur the listener on to take a further look at their back catalogue. As for the committed fan, there will, as always, be groans at omitted tracks but only the most myopic fan will fail to recognise that this is a celebration of a gloriously eccentric group clearly in their element.

- Ken O’Meara