Greatest Hits According to Me: The Decemberists

So this long piece of fiction I’ve been working on (I refuse to call it a book or a novel because that just makes me feel like an asshole) involves a woman who is making a greatest hits compilation that spans her entire singing career. As an exercise in procrastination I decided to make a bunch of Greatest Hits comps for my favorite artists. I keep them in a playlist folder called Greatest Hits According to Me. So far I’ve done Ben Gibbard (this was a total cheat so I could include The Postal Service, DCFC, and his work with Jay Farrar), The Decemberists, Mike Doughty, Pearl Jam, and The Rolling Stones. I only do artists’ whose catalogs I am intimately familiar with and whose music I really truly love with my whole heart.

The rules are tight on the Greatest Hits comps. It can only include fifteen songs (which seems a little lean if you were going to buy it on CD, but that’s the number of tracks I’ve arbitrarily chosen and I’m sticking to it). Since I’ve gone through all the pain & trauma of making these compilations, I’d thought I’d occasionally share them here so all my hard procrastinating does not go to waste.

From Castaways & Cutouts

Leslie Anne Levine: Ya gotta give props to any song that pairs parapet with petticoat.Here I Dreamt I Was an Architects: The second verse with the angels and the corners not meeting and the structure falling. I love that.
Odalisque: I’m a big fan of any time I’m learning new-to-me words.

From Her Majesty The Decemberists

Los Angeles, I’m Yours: Included not only for the use of the word undies, but also the Orphans & Oligarchs and Dolor & Decay pairings. Also, I love the word cranky.
Song for Myla Goldberg: I believe I’ve written about this before. If I hear this song once I have to listen to it at least 11 times in a row until the spot in my ear that itches for the “I know New York. I need New York. I know I need unique New York” has been properly scratched.
Red Right Ankle: I have always been and will forever be a sucker for gushy, sugary sweet love songs.

From Picaresque

16 by 32: They played this one on the radio all the time, I think that’s why I chose it for inclusion.
The Sporting Life: See above, also I wanted to include as many songs from as many albums as possible, but then I got the “Hazards of Love” and threw that idea right out of the window because I hate that album.

From The Crane Wife

O, Valencia!: A song in the very fine teenage death songs (ala “Leader of the Pack” or “Tell Laura I Love Her”).
Sons and Daughters: Not gonna lie, this is included solely for the way he sings the word aluminum.

From The King is Dead

Don’t Carry it All: The harmonica here reminds me of Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane.”
Down by the Water: Without fail whenever this song comes on I think it’s The Jayhawks, and that’s nothing but a good thing.
June Hymn: I’ve been singing this song nearly every morning since January, when we sang it at Rock & Roll book club. Big dorky singalongs with people you love are really the best thing that can ever happen.
This is Why We Fight: I have no idea why I included this one. It’s kind of genric-y and the lyrics are a little meh. I think I must have grown bored with Greatest Hits naming by this point.

A Random Cover Song

The Ballad of ElGoodo: Most of the Greatest Hits playlists I’ve made thus far include at least one cover song. I love cover songs. I downloaded a whole “album” of Decemberists’ covers from some long-forgotten hole of the Internet. This one barely beat out “King of Carrot Flowers, Part I.” Barely.

10 Comments
  • heather
    March 11, 2013

    nothing from Hazards of Love?! :(

    • Jodi
      March 11, 2013

      Ugh, no. I hate Hazards of Love.

      • heather
        March 12, 2013

        but. it’s. a story! set to music! two of your favourite things! sung amazingly! with a dead children’s choir!

        • Jodi
          March 12, 2013

          I know, I know Heather. But there was something just like they bought their own press on that one. Trying too hard. I’m not sure what. Plus there’s that one song that sounds like Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

  • Wolfdogg
    March 11, 2013

    Ok, I want to see your REM greatest hits collection now.

    • Jodi
      March 11, 2013

      I haven’t done the REM one yet. It will be a painful & difficult process. But maybe I’ll be up to the challenge tomorrow.

  • Trish Frankland
    March 13, 2013

    In June Hymn, it’s the “a barony of ivy in the trees expanding out its empire by degrees” that squeezes my heart for a second, every time.

  • Jodi Lamm
    March 16, 2013

    I LOVE The Decemberists! I bought Picaresque and The Crane Wife. I also have an eighteen minute song they did called “The Tain” which is weird but has such a pretty waltz in it. I think I love their music because it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever heard, it makes use of the glorious accordion, and because they tell stories. I’m partial to stories over dating songs. My list would probably include “The Mariner’s Revenge” (epic), “Shankill Butchers” (creepy), “Eli, the Barrow Boy” (I named a character after this song), “From My Own True Love” (that background droning beat!), “Sons & Daughters” (I always crave cinnamon after listening to it), and “The Engine Driver” (for reasons). I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and could smell the sea from my house on good days. Their music just reminds me of home.

    • Jodi
      March 17, 2013

      I don’t know if you watch “The Office” but this week’s episode featured a really charming scene of Dwight’s family singing “Sons & Daughters.”

      • Jodi Lamm
        March 28, 2013

        I do watch The Office. I haven’t seen the episode you mentioned yet, but I’ll be on the look out for it.

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