The Decemberists were a group that pretty much came out of nowhere last year and surpised the heck out of me with a great little debut full-length album that took a fairly standard set of sounds and molded them into something fresh and exciting again. With songs about questionable characters and occasionally unsavory behaviour, the disc sounded like a updated, highly-literate version of your favorite sea shanty. Lest that sound like something stuffy, let me tell you that it was also a whole load of fun as well.
In the time since that release, the group has seen quite a bit of favorable press, and they've been signed by a slightly bigger label as well. Kill Rock Stars will not only be releasing the bands follow-up full length this fall, but they'll also be re-issuing Castaways And Cutouts in the next couple months as well. The 5 Songs EP is their last hurrah for the Hush Records label (for the time being at least), and it's also a re-release. Although I didn't know it, it seems that the group had released an album of 5 songs previous to their full-length, and those tracks are all contained within, as well as one bonus track (thus rendering the name invalid, but the added track is a nice bonus regardless).
As a whole, the EP takes things down a notch for the group. Opening with warm acoustic guitar setting of "Oceanside," the disc mainly breezes along with lush midtempo tracks that the group seems to do so well. The track that comes closest to their clever escapades on their newer release is the awesome "My Mother Was A Chinese Trapeze Artist." Following the tall-tale lyrics of Colin Meloy, the track mixes steel guitar and accordian to nice effect, giving the track a Southern France/Southwestern US feel that fits nicely alongside the exotic vocal settings.
Even though it's one of the most musically straightforward tracks on the disc, "Shiny" is probably my favorite. In addition to being the most upbeat song on the release, it captures (more than any other on the release) the great overall songwriting abilities of the band. With the spring coming soon, it's the perfect track to turn up loud and sing along with. Overall, it's easy to hear a progression between the releases (for the better), but it's still an excellent little 22 minutes of music for a cheap price. Not only that, but the hand-drawn artwork is absolutely stunning.