Decemberists songwriter Colin Meloy writes stories — novel-worthy stories, about sailors and soldiers, ghosts and mistresses. On his band’s recent album, “His Majesty the Decemberists” (Kill Rock Stars), these stories resonate with wit and intelligence, enhanced by the folky chamber-pop that his band lays down methodically behind his meticulously enunciated syllables.
It’s quirky, in the best way: Meloy pronounces everything but the letter “r” carefully, but “r” often becomes “y” — in other words, “Los Angeles, I’m Yours” becomes, “Los Angeles, I’m Yoy’s.” As cute as that is, it becomes even more appealing live, where Meloy and his band weave tangled musical webs that often intersect with his characters’ well-thought-out fictional lives.
Meloy’s songs don’t just contain the acoustic attributes of American folk but fall into the patterns of Euro folk as well. “The Chimbley Sweep,” introduced by Meloy as being about his own childhood but obviously a Dickensian ode, is instilled with Irish oom-pah and accordion, while “Red Right Ankle” is all plucked guitars and soft keyboards.
The Decemberists are all versatile multi-instrumentalists; often, as an arrangement dictates, they switch places and instruments, taking over new sounds that guarantee a song never gets stale, no matter how drawn out the story.
That’s especially true of “The Tain,” a new 15-minute-plus epic that closed the show. It’s full of Zeppelin riffs and soupy country breakdowns, painful choruses and a back-to-the-beginning structure that feels like a novella. Without a lyric sheet to follow, the actual story that Meloy was telling was lost, but it didn’t matter. With music this enjoyably complex, the tale behind it was secondary, as the delivery was sublime.