Music as Poetry: The King is Dead

Source image: http://decemberists.com

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As I have mentioned before, The Decemberists are one of my favorite bands of all time. I consider my devotion to or admiration of a band to be serious when I start to buy merchandise pertaining to that band. I already have a Decemberists button featured on my purse and a Decemberists t-shirt. I’m pretty serious about them.

So, the Decemberists recently released a new album called The King is Dead and it’s truly superb. I know I’ve talked about it before in my previous music as poetry posts, but I consider poetical music to be music that is clearly written with purpose and that the artists have taken time to develop. I consider the Decemberists to be a perfect example of the poetical musicians. Colin Meloy, songwriter and lead singer for the band, has a poetry background and that definitely shows up in his songs. As such, I consider the Decemberists’ new album to be a perfect subject for today’s post.

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Music as Poetry: Modern Springsteen

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Last week I talked about poetry, so this week I thought my Thursday post would be about music as poetry instead. I was thinking of alternating the weeks and, besides, I haven’t found any really amazing poetry this week, so music it is! I have talked about Springsteen on this blog before, in fact it was my first ‘music as poetry’ post, but the example I used back then was of very early Springsteen music. Since then, I’ve listened to more and more of his discography, and I thought I would branch out to some of his more recent music.

A friend pointed out to me a little while ago that when you listen to a Springsteen song, you feel it first and then you hear the words. I’d have to say this is true. When I listen to a new song, I pay attention to the way Springsteen sings his lyrics and how forceful he is in conveying his message. I recently looked at the lyrics to one of my favorite songs of his, “Backstreets” and was surprised by some of the lyrics and how poetic they were. Today, we’re going to focus on another song whose lyrics surprised me — “You’ll Be Coming Down,” a song from Springsteen’s album Magic.

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Music as Poetry: The Art of Sampling

Album art from the new Girl Talk album, "All Day."

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Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the “music as poetry” series of posts and has been written by Lucas Sifuentes, our film blogger.

In Seth Lerer’s “portable history of the English language,” Inventing English, the author describes the birth of American English and how, by changing the spelling of words and creating some of our own, we were able to create our own identity through language, and separate ourselves even further from the British. In the 13th chapter, Horrid Hooting Stanzas, he begins writing about how poets, especially Emily Dickinson, began to use this new language of ours to comment on the American condition and create specific examples of what it means to speak American English as opposed to what it means to speaking British English. As a society we’ve always looked to language and art to find our cultural identity and we still do so today; however, as Webster and Dickinson once helped create a new national identity through language, musicians today are creating a new cultural identity specific for the times we live in, and they’re doing it through sampling.

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Music as Poetry: The Decemberists

Image source: http://musosguide.com

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For this week’s poetry analysis, I’d like to turn once again to music as a poetic form. As Professor Jones pointed out in her comment on my Bruce Springsteen post, not all music can be considered poetry. Music, we decided, can be poetic if the words have been chosen carefully and for a distinct purpose. Music can’t necessarily be deemed “poetry” only if you admire the beat and it’s fun to dance to. Music becomes poetry when the words convey something important to us and when talented songwriters have taken the time to craft each verse, chorus, and bridge.

With all this in mind, I present to you this week’s “music as poetry” selection — Los Angeles, I’m Yours by The Decemberists.

The Decemberists are a fairly recent band (the past ten years) who are of the genre known as “indie.” Generally, I understand indie music to be not mainstream, not following the most trendy of trends in music (i.e. auto-tuning) and often being sold by small-time record producers rather than the large, corporate record machines. The Decemberists are from Oregon and they sing about a lot of different things, incorporating very interesting words and images into their songs.

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