The Beat Breakdown with Mina Amick-Alexis’15, Women’s Track & Field

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Updated: March 3, 2015

It doesn’t take a couple of (million) headphone commercials to understand the significance music has on sports. Bob Marley was recognized as an excellent soccer (erm, football) player, Bubba Watson hosts an annual hip-hop bash, and even 2 Chainz (a performer we shall reluctantly consider as an artist) attended college on a basketball scholarship. With this connection in mind, BRSN asked various Big Red athletes to review some of their favorite music albums. We received an interesting collection that we’ll be releasing throughout the semester.

The second part in our series is brought to you by varsity women’s track and field captain and sprint hurdler Mina Amick-Alexis. The senior psychology major puts her music minor to test as she analyzes The Decemberists’ What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. Amick-Alexis brings an interesting perspective as a studio-recorded artist herself. Check out her Facebook page here.

In the opening track to The Decemberists’ newly released 7th studio album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, lead singer Colin Meloy directly addresses fans with a simple acoustic piece and honest vocals. In this intro track, “The Singer Addresses His Audience,” the band acknowledges their four-year-long absence from the recording studio, immediately drawing in old and new fans alike with genuine language and relatable lyrics.

“We know, we know
We belong to ya
We know you built your life around us
And would we change?
We had to change, some
You know
To belong to you”
(Lyrics from “The Singer Addresses His Audience”)

Transitioning to another facet of their signature indie folk rock style, the Portland-based group dive into the upbeat “Cavalry Captain,” highlighting the talents of drummer John Moen, followed by the playful energy of “Philomena,” using chord progressions that smartly reimagine the musical styling of their 1960’s British folk rock influences.

A major highlight of the album comes in the first-released single off the album titled “Make You Better,” which includes strong pop appeal and catchy sing-along hooks, reminiscent of the group’s Grammy nominated single “Down By The Water” from their 2011 album The King Is Dead.

Other memorable tracks include “Lake Song,” “The Wrong Year,” “Down By The Water,” and “Anti-Summersong,” which nicely balance the varying talents of Colin Meloy (lead vocals, guitar, songwriter), Chris Funk (guitar, multi-instrumentalist), Jenny Conlee (piano/keyboards, organ, accordion), Nate Query (bass), and John Moen (drums). These tracks musically and lyrically incorporated some major themes off of the album, which include continuous imagery of nature, mountain, and river references. Across several tracks the lyricists play on their “go with the flow” melodious style and the bandmates’ influences from northwestern small-town upbringings.

“Down by the lake
We were overturning pebbles
And upending all the animals alight
And I took a drag
From your cigarette and pinched it”
……
“They came down from the mountain
They strayed too long from the fountain
And all the while
All the while they longed for us
No I won’t betray you
I won’t
Till the water’s all gone”
(Lyrics from “Lake Song” and “Till The Water’s All Gone,” respectively)

Following another underlying theme present throughout all of their albums, “Easy Come, Easy Go” plays with the 1960’s folk rock style again, pairing Chris Funk and Colin Meloy’s acoustic and electric guitar harmonies with the subtle distorted background vocals of Jenny Conlee. “Mistral” and “12/17/12” continue to stay true to the bands’ folk style, with some critics voicing issues of tracks becoming redundant of their past work. Definite stylistic choices seem to repeat in the tempo and harmonies in several songs, however the album comes to an uplifting conclusion with their final track, smartly titled “A Beginning Song.” This piece deliberately gives each band member a moment in the spotlight throughout the final five minutes of World. Leading man Meloy begins the track on guitar and vocals, delivering impressive lyrics to once again pay tribute to their fans, followed by a catchy electric bass line played by Nate Query.

“Document the world inside his skin
The tenor of your shins
The timbre of your limbs
Now commence to kick each brick apart
To center on your heart
Starting with your heart (bright heart)”
……
“It’s it sunlight, it’s it shadow
It’s the quiet, it’s the word
It’s the beating heart It’s the ocean it’s the boys”
……
“It’s all around me”
(Lyrics from “A Beginning Song”)

This final song is rich with introspective lyrics and well-balanced instrumental parts, and shows that “A Beginning Song” above all else represents the sentiments of the album. It gives each bandmate a clear part that blends harmoniously with the rest, and rewards Portland music fans with the signature style that made The Decemberists popular in the first place. What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World is a smart and honest album due to the diverse musical talents of the members. The album shows impressive lyrical development since The Decemberists’ 2011 The King Is Dead, and is the junction of familiar sounds with some new inflections that will resonate with the modern indie folk audience.

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