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Colin Meloy 

Colin Meloy Sings Live! (Kill Rock Stars)

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The Decemberists' frontman has always claimed that his band's overstuffed folk-prog anthems started life as stripped-down acoustic numbers. Colin Meloy Sings Live! — which is filled with stripped-down acoustic Decemberists songs — confirms this. Oddly, Meloy's whiny voice seems a lot less grating when accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Slower songs like "Devil's Elbow" drag a bit, but the more intricate tunes —"We Both Go Down Together," the six-minute "On the Bus Mall" — work well in a setting that focuses primarily on Meloy's voice. This shouldn't come as a surprise, since he's as much a wordsmith as he is a purveyor of grandiose arrangements. Decemberists fans will undoubtedly get a kick out of the intimate, bare-bones songs. Everyone else should pick up The Crane Wife instead.

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