For all intents and purposes, 2003's Her Majesty the Decemberists could best be described as the charming older brother to the band's previous outing Castaways and Cutouts (2002). And, while being recognizably related to its sibling predecessor, it is an altogether different beast.
Present and accounted for are the Victorian literary tropes, the rakish mariners, and the Dickensian downtrodden that slouched their way across the lazer imprinted surface of Castaways; in Her Majesty a new cast of characters is introduced as well, giving further depth to the richly bizarre songcraft of the band's bespectacled leading player, Colin Meloy: an aristocratic Jewess, slumming it blindfolded among the exotic avenues of a Chinese bazaar, the coifed and coked-up bon vivants of greater Los Angeles, the writer Myla Goldberg, and a pair of affectionate soldiers, celebrating their comradery among the mortar blasts and trench mud of World War I Belgium.
Musically, the band travels over new territory as well, mining deeper into their Beatlepop influences to create a record that is as lush as it is intricate. Strings soar, glockenspiels chime, and analog synths buzz over what the band considers its finest overture into pop song arrangement, all the while keeping intact the folk-pop instrumentation that has defined the sound of the band since its inception: Meloy returns on acoustic and electric guitars and singing, Jenny Conlee on accordion and keyboards, Chris Funk on electric guitars and sundry stringed instruments, and newcomers Rachel Blumberg and Jesse Emerson, respectively, contribute their drumming and upright bass playing. Back in print on 180g vinyl.