"You say that there's a thousand like you, Maybe that's true, I fell for you and nobody else"

- Orange Juice

Picaresque (album) by The Decemberists 

This album At A Glance
Picaresque by The Decemberists (2005)
Release date: 2005-03-22
Overall rank: 876th   Overall chart history
Average Rating: 
78/100 (from 224 votes)
  Ratings distribution
Accolades: Top 20 albums of 2005 (17th)
Top albums of the 2000s (167th)
Top 1,000 albums of all time (876th)

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Product Details Availability Price

MINT SEALED The DECEMBERISTS Picaresque 2x LP RSD 2015 on 180g RED Vinyl Bonus
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Time left:
21h 11m 14s

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2d 16h 21m 56s

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The Decemberists bestography

Picaresque is ranked 2nd best out of 16 albums by The Decemberists on BestEverAlbums.com.

The best album by The Decemberists is The Crane Wife which is ranked number 614 in the list of all-time albums with a total rank score of 4,115.

The Decemberists album bestography « Higher ranked (614th) This album (876th) Lower ranked (1,174th) »
The Crane WifePicaresqueThe Hazards Of Love

Members who like this album also like: Funeral by Arcade Fire, The Crane Wife by The Decemberists and Illinois by Sufjan Stevens.

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Picaresque rankings

Picaresque ratings

Average Rating: 
78/100 (from 224 votes)
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Picaresque comments

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From Sandrof1969 02/22/2018 17:33
Questo "Picaresque" non è il mio disco preferito dei Decemberists ma non è male.
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From jlinville 02/02/2018 19:43
Almost every song is a great short story. Those that arent, are novels. What a great novel would The Mariner's Revenge Song maek? Or On the Bus Mall? Eli? Bagman's Gambit? It's just an incredible album and unlike others here, I find it to be theer best album.
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From BrunoDMartins 03/05/2017 18:52
Favorite Tracks: The Mariner's Revenge Song, We Both Go Down Together & 16 Military Wives
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From yonstein414 01/15/2016 19:07
Picaresque is the great leap for The Decemberists. They establish themselves as a unique and indispensible voice in music.
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From Mez123 05/14/2015 23:00
This is another greatrecord from this band. Very close to which isbetter overall this or The Crane's Wife. Excellnet album! MEZ
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From zdwyatt 02/09/2015 19:52
This album, specifically the song "Engine Driver," is what got me into this band. It has several great tracks and was their most consistent album to date. I do prefer The Crane Wife and the Hazards of Love, but I think this is the strongest of their "classic" style.
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From Defago 09/29/2012 21:19
Don't know how haven't I found this before! Great indie/folk/prog. Best track is definitely The Mariner's Revenge Song. Both the instrumental break and the incalzando outro give me goosebumps, not to mention the outstanding storytelling.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
From junodog4 04/18/2012 03:15
Doesn't seem American, but at the same time, seems quintessentially so.
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From paladisiac 12/10/2011 03:50
Picaresque is my favorite album from the Decemberists. It starts off with a muted tribal horn i often blast before the drums beat in with Colin narrating the premise of "the infanta": "Here she comes in her palanquin / on the back of an elephant / on a bed made of linen and sequins and silk / all astride on her father's line / with the king and his concubines / and her nurse with her pitchers of liquors and milk / and we'll all come praise the infanta". The charging literature of the song is finely offset by the quieter, pensive, recharging bridge. The lyrics on "infanta" are the best decemberists lyrics yet (and i love intelligent lyrics), replete with high-point scrabble words like "palanquin", "pachyderm" and "folderol", tied with another picaresque tune, the epic "mariner's revenge song", probably my favorite decemberists songs of all-time. "mariner's" starts in flashback mode "in this belly of a whale" recalling a "rake and a rastabout" who moved in on the narrator's mother when he was 14 "Leaving my mother A poor consumptive wretch" with a killer-yet-frail chorus delivered by Jenny wisping "Find him, bind him / Tie him to a pole and break / His fingers to splinters / Drag him to a hole until he / Wakes up naked / Clawing at the ceiling / Of his grave". The narrator later was hired in a priory "But never once in the employ / Of these holy men / Did I ever once turn my mind / From the thought of revenge" hearing about a captain known for "wanton cruelty", the man who left his mother destitute in death. There's even a pensive instrumental passage as the narrator contemplates commiting a "wicked deed" (to kill that captain) which nails the sound of the old sea (as only the Decemberists can!). Then "And then that fateful night / We had you in our sight / After twenty months at sea / Your starboard flank abeam / I was getting my muskets clean / When came this rumbling from beneath" as the whale rose from beneath which chews up all but our two antagonists. Marvelous storytelling and delivery including an energized ending. All tunes have the feel of tales of centuries ago, classic stories charles dickens or herman melville would be proud of, full of motorcars and muskets ablaze. "we both go down together" is a tale of a couple who commit suicide knowing their families will never allow them together ("Meet me on my vast veranda / My sweet untouched Miranda / and while the seagulls are crying / we fall but our souls are flying"). That Colin can make such wordsmithy, sea shanties so catchy and endearing is a testament to his intelligence and ability to tap the human condition. Like on "eli the barrow boy", the soliloquied epitaph of a loved one, singing "Would I could afford to buy my love a fine robe / Made of gold and silk Arabian thread / But she is dead and gone and lying in a pine grove / And I must push my barrow all the day". Or the humorously playful "the sporting life": "I fell on the playing field / the work of an errant heel / the din of the crowd and the loud commotion / went deafening silence and stopped emotion" . The instrumentation on this album kicks arse too, from the fiddle on "together" to the organ and horns on "16 military wives" to the accordion on "mariner's revenge song". The slower numbers work well too, from the crime scene buildup of "the bagman's gambit" ("On the lam from the law / on the steps of the capitol / you shot a plainclothes cop on the ten o'clock") and literally lost love "from my own true love (lost at sea)", to what i feel is Colin's first love song "of angels and angles". Beautiful acoustic guitar prefaces simply-felt lines like "there are angels in your angles, there's a low moon caught in your tangles", the perfectly understated closer to offset the literary bombast of "infanta". The sentiment is as saddening-sweet on "the engine driver" with a chorus pleading "and if you don't love me, let me go", and even on the lyrically-simple-life-of-a-male-prostitute of "on a bus mall" illustrating "here in our hovel we fuse like a family, / But I will not mourn for you. / So take off your makeup / And pocket your pills away. / We're kings among runaways / On the bus mall." . There's even a jab at politics in "16 military wives": "Cheer them on to their rivals / Cause America can, and America can't say no / And America does, if America says it's so".
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