Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists and Stars play Central Park - Oh My Rockness

Recommended Show
August 11, 2005
"Mark my words: these guys will be HUGE one day." Ok, so recommending Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, or Stars is about as cool as referring to band members as "kids" ("I totally toured with that band. They're really cool kids." Man, I hate that). So ok, these three "indie" heavyweights aren't exactly "under-the-radar" or "the next big thing." But I shouldn't ignore this show simply for the sake of snobbery. I mean, it's not their fault they're popular. Death Cab, The Decemberists, and Stars are bigger than Tim Harrington's paunch simply because all three play really good songs. Who really cares if your latte-loving co-workers like them too?

This is the first Death Cab show in NYC since the Seattle band left Barsuk (sort of, the vinyl version is still coming out on the indie label) for the mighty shores of Atlantic. It probably won't make that much of a difference in their sound considering Transatlanticism was one of the most accessible records on ANY label, major or indie, in 2003. It's not like the band is going to feel pressure to tone down their angularly distorted fuck-ups in order to have a hit single. "Hey guys, recording sounds great... but would you mind making the chorus a little less catchy? Maybe not so many major chords? And Gibby, can you make your tone a little less pure? I'm afraid right now it's just a little too singable. That may work for an indie, but it won't work with the big boys." Nah, the label transition should be seamless. These guys were meant for the big stage.

Speaking of being "meant for the stage," The Decemberists are also playing this bill. Do you think they'll bust out the gong in Central Park? Man, those old Upper East Side ladies are going to be seriously pissed. Colin Meloy and his crew write wonderfully weird epics that leave you both enraptured and giddily confused. "This song is so awesome, but what the hell does Arethusa have to do with a mandarin Chinese boy?" The band sounds straight from a bygone era and a distant land. Meloy's songs tend to champion the unheard plights of such characters as chimney sweeps, French legionnaires, seafarers, aristocratic Jewess gypsies, and other "castaways" that society scornfully shuns. The band's fantastical leanings and eccentric musicality is rooted in folk but is transformed Decemberists-style with swirling acoustic guitars, rapturous organs, accordions and even a theremin. Not exactly elements that lead to surefire success, but here they are, playing Central Park. Who knew?

Rounding out the Big Three is Stars. Sometimes I hate myself for liking these sugary Canadians so much, especially when they begin songs by saying, "I'm Evan and this is my heart" (I don't even know you, Evan). But everyone needs a guilty pleasure. You know how when bands have dual singers, it almost always fucks things up? It's like, "Either have him sing, or have her sing, just pick one." However, in the curious case of Stars, having dual vocalists is actually amazingly right. It also helps that both of their smooth voices are as lulling as a warm womb.

And to be fair, Stars aren't ALL cheesiness. On their latest album, Set Yourself On Fire, (with cover art that completely rips off Explosions in the Sky's The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, but never mind that) the final song is called "Calendar Girl" and it's one of the most heart-tugging songs I've heard in a while. It's hard to write a song about not wanting to die and time passing without sounding completely cliche (the two subjects, after s-e-x, that have been written about most, perhaps) but they manage to pull it off. It takes a lot for me to "feel" something because I'm such a ball-throwing, domestic-beer-drinking macho jock. But "Calendar Girl" gets me every time (as does the theme song from "The Money Pit").

This show is sold-out. We're sorry if you don't have tickets and wanted to go. God, we can be such a rock tease...

Death Cab For Cutie, The Decemberists, and Stars play Central Park SummerStage, Thursday, August 18th.


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