About four years ago, I alighted upon the love of my life. We had been introduced by a mutual friend, and though the two of us were caught up in our own separate lives, there was an air of inevitability to our acquaintance.
Still, the timing was inconvenient. I turned my concentrations to my schoolwork, and though I often revisited that piece of harmony that was our introduction, I found I just couldn’t donate enough time for the two of us to coexist. I consented to hoping one day we might find ourselves together again, with nothing to stand in our way.
During my freshman year of college, the object of my infatuation slowly but surely seeped back into my life. Coupled with the resilient and opportune support of my friends, I resolved to pour myself into the fortuitous effort at hand.
I began to listen to the Decemberists.
Now, as I look back on those golden days when I lolled in the grass with Picaresque softly caressing my ears, I am only able to sigh and reminisce. My re-adoration with the Decemberists was sudden, but our relationship was so clearly built to last — hardly a day would go by that I could bear to be without my beloved. And so that is why, when my bond with the Decemberists could never be stronger, that the news of our separation shocked me so: The band had consigned to a multi-year hiatus, with no immediate end in sight. After finally attending my first show this past summer, I would be alone once again.
Well, almost alone. See, though the focus of my desire fades away from me as we speak, in its place I have two parting gifts: an EP and an iTunes music session. At first, I was fed up — betrayed, even. I refused to accept these gracious bequeathments and instead attempted to satisfy my lust with inadequate look-a-likes: the Avett Brothers here, Neutral Milk Hotel there. But every so often I found my mind wandering back to those days filled with accordions, mandolins and Colin Meloy’s irreplaceable voice. Slowly, I warmed up once more to the Portlanders and their most recent contributions. I had fallen out of love, and right back in.
In a way I never imagined, the band’s departure was my immediate benefit. The two collections of music intended to cap off a swift exit from the world of music turned out to be just as fruitful as expected. Long Live the King, the collected leftovers of January’s rustic The King Is Dead, proves that bobbing for apples on the cutting room floor doesn’t have to be a futile effort. “E. Watson” and “Burying Davy,” both exquisitely dark and brooding, are centered on the procession of interment and the finality of death. I get it, guys — it’s time to lay my yearning to rest.
So when I then turned to the recent iTunes music session — an assembly of eight songs re-recorded live in studio — I was astonished once more. The Decemberists had placed into my hands a veritable photo album of our time together. Snapshots from The King Is Dead (consisting of “June Hymn” and “This Is Why We Fight,” two of my favorites) evoked warm memories of summer: sipping iced tea, poised on my front porch as Meloy’s harmonica diffused outward into the balmy July night. “Shankill Butchers,” from The Crane Wife, brought back those days during freshman year when, with our affair rekindled, the fat snowflakes would drift leisurely past my bedroom window.
Nothing, though, could prepare me for the flood of nostalgia that came with the few sweet strums of the sixth track — I was swept up in it, powerless against the currents that pulled me to and fro. For then came the melancholic “Shiny” — an obscure, sepia-toned exposure pulled from the band’s self-released EP 5 Songs. Over the years, the sands of time had piled up, and eventually buried my fond recollection of our beginnings together. And as Meloy sang softly of “tawny gypsy girls” and “bootblack fingertips,” I knew this breakup was for the best. These songs, this new material, it all helped me to realize the special time we had together, and the time we one day might spend together again.