User Score
8.5

Universal acclaim- based on 116 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 9 out of 116

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  1. Jake
    Mar 23, 2005
    0
    no....No.....NO!!!!!!!!! Someone needs to put this bleating donkey and his insufferable band of assorted a-ses out of their misery....
  2. VanessaV
    Mar 23, 2005
    10
    As a huge Decemberists fan, I cannot possibly be any more thrilled with this album. It is truly a masterpiece from start to finish.
  3. Jack
    Mar 24, 2005
    8
    It's as strong as "Her Magjesty" I give the decemberists credit for being consistant and original. I hate when people make comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel. I just don't see it.
  4. ChristopherB
    Mar 25, 2005
    9
    An awesome follow up -- the sound is even bigger and fuller. The musicianship of The Decemberists is incredible. Awesome lyrics too. Once more, I'm impressed with this band and I can't wait to see them live again.
  5. WillaimB
    Mar 26, 2005
    10
    One can only wonder where the muscial world would be without the advent of MTV or Rolling Stone Magazine. Why some of the greatest albums ever released get panned by the behemoths in favor of artless shells of musicians. This album will not be mentioned 3 years from now but at the time of it's inception you'd be hard pressed to top it. Insofar, this is the best album release of One can only wonder where the muscial world would be without the advent of MTV or Rolling Stone Magazine. Why some of the greatest albums ever released get panned by the behemoths in favor of artless shells of musicians. This album will not be mentioned 3 years from now but at the time of it's inception you'd be hard pressed to top it. Insofar, this is the best album release of the year. Expand
  6. JustinC
    Mar 27, 2005
    10
    Perhaps the best album of 2005 so far.
  7. JeffR
    Mar 27, 2005
    8
    Interesting, full bodied music. Nice vocal hooks. Wood definitely recommend.
  8. thiagozero
    Mar 27, 2005
    10
    this is a very good album, their best and no need to comment..
  9. starwax
    Mar 28, 2005
    9
    another brilliant album from a brilliant band, i can listen to 'The mariner's revenge song' all day long...
  10. ericb
    Mar 28, 2005
    9
    The Decemberists are the most promising indie band in some time. I predict they will outlast almost all of today's 'it' bands
  11. BrianM
    Mar 28, 2005
    8
    A good album and solid follow up to Her Majesty. The first track is excellent and starts the album off well, however, the last couple of songs drag a bit.
  12. markf
    Mar 29, 2005
    9
    8.5 is more accurate. It's not better than Beck. The musicianship and the lyrics (In a Broadway musical context) are worth a 9. The vocals and the winsomness would drop it to an 8. Still, some of it is damn fine, especially "The Infanta", "The Bagman's Gambit", "From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)", and "The Mariner's Revenge Song". It's a solid album of folk rock 8.5 is more accurate. It's not better than Beck. The musicianship and the lyrics (In a Broadway musical context) are worth a 9. The vocals and the winsomness would drop it to an 8. Still, some of it is damn fine, especially "The Infanta", "The Bagman's Gambit", "From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)", and "The Mariner's Revenge Song". It's a solid album of folk rock which isn't afraid to be true to its own Muse. Expand
  13. AdamC
    Mar 30, 2005
    10
    Best Decemberists so far. Unbelievable CD... even better live!!
  14. MikeP
    Mar 31, 2005
    10
    Their best album, top to bottom, and welcome reassurance that there is amazing, unique music out there--if you can find it.
  15. ConnorW
    Apr 1, 2005
    8
    Album is a whimsical, pleasant listen with occasionally energetic rockers such as "Infanta," "Sixteen Military Wives," and the epic "Mariner's Revenge" (though it pales in comparison to their 17 minute "The Tain"). Certainly worth buying, but pales next to the live show, where the music takes on an entirely new nature.
  16. RobertR
    Apr 1, 2005
    9
    It's impossible to finish The Sporting Life without a smile on your face.
  17. MichaelA
    Apr 10, 2005
    9
    Despite many critical claims that this the latest Decemberists release frees them from the stagebound vignette-ish (read: somewhat one-dimensioinal) presence of past efforts, I would argue the contrary to some degree. The album takes the soul of Castaways and Cutouts, combined with the artful "glimpse into the life" storytelling of Her Majesty to form a solid, coherent, and convincing Despite many critical claims that this the latest Decemberists release frees them from the stagebound vignette-ish (read: somewhat one-dimensioinal) presence of past efforts, I would argue the contrary to some degree. The album takes the soul of Castaways and Cutouts, combined with the artful "glimpse into the life" storytelling of Her Majesty to form a solid, coherent, and convincing review of the staged lives and times of its invented characters. Thus, while Picaresque does dispel one-dimensionality, it does not cast off the frame of the vignette. It simply creates more realistic and believable characters. A few favorites: the The Infanta's crazed British reporter, who describes the (likely Indian) royal procession, yet despite his better judgment, is reeled in and captured by its Orientalist decadance and splendor; the disenchanted athlete, frozen by ambivalence, who can't quite measure up to the rigors of "The Sporting Life" (made all the more compelling by the upbeat, frenetic, and unrelenting tempo); and the typically (but hardly disappointingly) transparent Engine Driver, who offers us a glimpse into Meloy's psyche, as the two characters blend (remeniscent of Her Majesty's "I was Meant for the Stage." Expand
  18. JimB
    Apr 13, 2005
    8
    It's great but my fav is still the 5 songep by these guys
  19. Chloé
    Apr 20, 2005
    10
    Absolutely amazing CD: no weak tracks, catchiness, drama, fun. IMO best of 2005 so far and possibly untoppable.
  20. Frank
    Apr 23, 2005
    10
    Quirky, funky and catchy - just perfect music for a leg of a daily commute or time to enjoy on a weekend. Never heard of them before "16 Military Wives" got serious airplay on local KNRK, and had to get the cd, the song stuck in my brain too well, deep lyrics and a catchy rhythm. Even better is that they are local to my adopted city, so hopefully I can catch a show someday.
  21. NeilG
    Apr 24, 2005
    9
    Colin Meloy's a singular talent,the Decemberists are a band the USA should cherish and treasure and this record is the zenith of their career so far.So yes I did like it !!!!
  22. SamF
    Apr 26, 2005
    10
    Best album in my entire collection and the band's best yet, surpassing even Castaways 'The Infanta', 'We Both Go Down Together', 'The Sporting Life' and 'The Mariner's Revenge Song' are trully brilliant. 'The Bagman's Gambit' is also high quality. In fact this whole album is of exceptionally high quality.
  23. AnthonyD
    Apr 26, 2005
    3
    Pseudo-intellectual and pretentious, the latest album from the Decemberists is more of the same from this castrated group. The lyrics are carefully crafted and literate but fail to inspire in even the slightest way. Meloy's whiny, phoney vocals and the bands pompous orchestral blathering is barely tolerable, let alone enjoyable or interesting. Meloy should just write a novel and save Pseudo-intellectual and pretentious, the latest album from the Decemberists is more of the same from this castrated group. The lyrics are carefully crafted and literate but fail to inspire in even the slightest way. Meloy's whiny, phoney vocals and the bands pompous orchestral blathering is barely tolerable, let alone enjoyable or interesting. Meloy should just write a novel and save our culture from this derivitive fluff. Expand
  24. AndyW
    Apr 28, 2005
    9
    This is the first Decemberists album I've purchased so I heard very little before this one. To me they have a refreshing sound in an indie market that's been incredibly boring for a while now.
  25. ToddV
    May 5, 2005
    10
    This album is very creative and Colin Meloy has a brillantly unique voice and singing style. This is true music...screw pop!
  26. BobC
    May 6, 2005
    9
    Creative lyrics, unusual combination of instruments produces music which keep bringing me back for more.
  27. JustinF
    May 10, 2005
    10
    This is a great direction for The Decemberists; the cleaner sound has tied together the clever lyrics and unusual voice of Colin Meloy and the wonderfully crafted ensemble of the band.
  28. AubreeH
    May 11, 2005
    9
    This album stacks up with the Decemberists other works very well. It is enjoyable for everyone and probably the most accesible of their albums to the newest listener and yet still lovable to the most devoted long time fan. The songs are catchy, inspired, and beautiful. The only downside is that Meloy's voice is downplayed by the music at some moments but even this can help some who This album stacks up with the Decemberists other works very well. It is enjoyable for everyone and probably the most accesible of their albums to the newest listener and yet still lovable to the most devoted long time fan. The songs are catchy, inspired, and beautiful. The only downside is that Meloy's voice is downplayed by the music at some moments but even this can help some who don't particuarly love his vocals. overall it's wonderful and should be heard by all! Expand
  29. SheaE
    May 23, 2005
    9
    I've been a Decemberists fan since 5 songs and they never dissapoint. This release contains some of my favorite (Engine Driver) and least favorite (The Mariner's Revenge Song) Diecembests songs.
  30. matta
    May 26, 2005
    9
    Wow, another great album from the Decemberists. In fact, there is probably their best, edging out Her Majesty. A band like this, that gets progressively better with each album, is a rare and wonderful thing indeed.
  31. JoeD
    May 31, 2005
    4
    the band is great, but meloy overpowers it with his horrible bleating. He has a painfully weak falsetto and mispronounces words like "there" on purpose. He sucks and would not be in the band if he had not started it.
  32. losnyc
    Jun 8, 2005
    4
    see you at the renn fair! nuf said about this crappy, pretentous band.
  33. ChadS
    Jun 9, 2005
    10
    The most underrated band of the nineties was A House. I think The Decemberists might be hip to "I Am the Greatest". "The Engine Driver" sounds like the best song David Couse never wrote. I am in love with this song. Colin Meloy even sounds a little like Couse. "Picaresque" is the sort of literate and melodic album I thought nobody was making anymore. "16 Military Wives" is the sort of The most underrated band of the nineties was A House. I think The Decemberists might be hip to "I Am the Greatest". "The Engine Driver" sounds like the best song David Couse never wrote. I am in love with this song. Colin Meloy even sounds a little like Couse. "Picaresque" is the sort of literate and melodic album I thought nobody was making anymore. "16 Military Wives" is the sort of song Dar Williams used to write when she was brilliant. But I'm not suggesting that Meloy's songs are purely imitative of these artists. "Picaresque" will no doubt attract attention from the major labels. "The Engine Driver" is almost "Wonderwall"-catchy. Expand
  34. Matt
    Jun 9, 2005
    9
    Combines 60s stylings with unique vocals and lyrics. Great album!
  35. jake
    Jun 23, 2005
    9
    this album is one of the best albums of this year. With Cris Walla prducing it, the decembrists have created a simple but complex album which is hearfelt.
  36. DanB.
    Jun 26, 2005
    7
    As good or bad as their previous. Four or five good tracks, the rest is either filler (if you're not a big fan of the band) or goodness (if you are). I think I'm going to make a best-of of all three albums, cutting the slow, grating songs, and keeping the great ones. Love Engine Driver, Sporting Life, 16 Military Wives. ...oh and, excellent line by a commenter below: he would As good or bad as their previous. Four or five good tracks, the rest is either filler (if you're not a big fan of the band) or goodness (if you are). I think I'm going to make a best-of of all three albums, cutting the slow, grating songs, and keeping the great ones. Love Engine Driver, Sporting Life, 16 Military Wives. ...oh and, excellent line by a commenter below: he would not be in the band if he hadn't started it. I don't agree but, it's funny. Expand
  37. RichardL
    Aug 21, 2005
    9
    A logical continuation to the style being developed by the Decemberists. The songs retain the flavor of the previous albums, adding more and more elaborate and distinctive instrumentation.
  38. Dale
    Aug 29, 2005
    10
    A big step forward from a very good band. Anyone that doesn't think this is an emotionally complex and impressive work of art either hasn't listened to it enough or...I dunno. One of the best albums of the year at least. I try to stop listening to this disc so I don't get tired of it but it keeps finding its way into the mix. I'm surprised and dissapointed it A big step forward from a very good band. Anyone that doesn't think this is an emotionally complex and impressive work of art either hasn't listened to it enough or...I dunno. One of the best albums of the year at least. I try to stop listening to this disc so I don't get tired of it but it keeps finding its way into the mix. I'm surprised and dissapointed it didn't get a higher metascore. Expand
  39. DavidM
    Sep 2, 2005
    9
    It's sad to see this drop out of the metacritic top 30, because to my ears, this is one of the ten best records of the year. Yes, the lead singer is a campy ham, but there's a true believers commitment to the traditionally styled folk numbers, and some of the pop numbers, especially the shattering, beautifully detailed AT THE BUS MALL and the truly boyant protest song 16 It's sad to see this drop out of the metacritic top 30, because to my ears, this is one of the ten best records of the year. Yes, the lead singer is a campy ham, but there's a true believers commitment to the traditionally styled folk numbers, and some of the pop numbers, especially the shattering, beautifully detailed AT THE BUS MALL and the truly boyant protest song 16 MILITARY WIVES, are amongst the very best songs of this year. It's fallen way down in rankings, but easily the superior of higher rated efforts by MIA, ANDREW BIRD, EELS, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, GO BETWEENS, RY COODER, BRIGHT EYES, STARS any many others. And it's a lot of fun. Expand
  40. KyleB
    Sep 15, 2005
    10
    80? Is that all? Talk about underrated.
  41. JosephK
    Sep 21, 2005
    9
    The lyrics are outstanding.
  42. BorisH
    Sep 22, 2005
    3
    I liked this better when it was called NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL!
  43. DeboA
    Oct 23, 2005
    9
    A theatrical Wonder! 'Picaresque' comes to life with vivid language and humor. One of the best albums of the year! Simply Beautiful.
  44. JettK
    Oct 23, 2005
    9
    Haunting tunes, pictures running through your head, wonderful words to pick over. Yummy.
  45. DrGoob
    Nov 14, 2005
    8
    A very decent album overall. 'The Mariner's Revenge Song' is outstanding.
  46. Chris
    Dec 5, 2005
    9
    Definately a cd you can listen to all the way through without skipping a song. One of the best cds of the year if not the best. Catchy songs mixed with thoughtful lyrics. They don't miss a beat and do so while topping their previous cd.
  47. AlexS
    Jan 1, 2006
    10
    this is by far the greatest album of 2005. I have no idea how you can dislike this music. And stop comparing it to neutral milk hotel, they are completley diffrent. definite 10/10 it doesnt compare to castaways and cutouts, but C&C was one of the greatest cds ever.
  48. DanielK
    Jan 28, 2006
    10
    Spectacular!!!!
  49. OliverC
    Feb 11, 2006
    10
    This band is amazing, i sort of feell like nothing else in the world matters when im listening to them...
  50. hibb
    May 26, 2006
    8
    Definitely an improvement from Her Majesty, but after listening to it many times, I still can't say I like it better than Castaways. True, it's memorable, but the whale of a track (Mariner's Revenge) had me questioning why I like this band so much. The Engine Driver is probably my favorite song of theirs to date, however, making up for some of the over the top theatrics in Definitely an improvement from Her Majesty, but after listening to it many times, I still can't say I like it better than Castaways. True, it's memorable, but the whale of a track (Mariner's Revenge) had me questioning why I like this band so much. The Engine Driver is probably my favorite song of theirs to date, however, making up for some of the over the top theatrics in the second to last track. Expand
  51. SAVAGETOAST
    Jun 27, 2006
    10
    After listening to the cd i thought...holy shit! The lyrics to mariners revenge song blew me away, and so did this album. i think i found another great band to follow. CAN I GET A FUCK YA FROM ALL THE INDIE ROCKERS!?
  52. PresidentBush
    Jul 9, 2006
    0
    crap
  53. TheCritic
    Jul 17, 2006
    10
    President Bush you stupid bowl of elephant Pee!!! The Decemberists are a great band and are very creative. You DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT if all you can say is "crap" and can't even back up your an opinion. If I was your father, I would take a whip and whip you into shape or tape headphones to your head and MAKE you listen to good music.
  54. stardust
    Jun 9, 2007
    10
    Beautiful music.
  55. DangerZ.
    Nov 11, 2007
    8
    Mostly great, but has some weak points.
  56. Apr 11, 2011
    10
    Picaresque is The Decemberists' best album to date. Meloy and company generate memorable melodies with great hooks and delightful word play. There are almost no weak songs on this album.
  57. Nov 15, 2011
    9
    My favourite songs on the album are: 1) The Mariner's Revenge Song 2) The Engine Driver and 3) The Infanta 4) We Both Go Down Together. The Mariner's Revenge Song is in fact one of my most favourite songs of all time, telling an awesome story with a wicked melody. Picaresque is an awesome album.
  58. Dec 21, 2011
    10
    One of the best Decemberists albums. They pick up from the more melodic previous two albums with the rocking opener "The Infanta" and it doesn't slow down from there. From that point we get some awesome tracks like the anthemic "We Both Go Down Together", the quirky "Sporting Life", the trumpet-coated "16 Military Wives", the groovy "Engine Driver", and the engaging sea shanty "Mariner'sOne of the best Decemberists albums. They pick up from the more melodic previous two albums with the rocking opener "The Infanta" and it doesn't slow down from there. From that point we get some awesome tracks like the anthemic "We Both Go Down Together", the quirky "Sporting Life", the trumpet-coated "16 Military Wives", the groovy "Engine Driver", and the engaging sea shanty "Mariner's Revenge Song", which is also quite possibly the best song on the album. No matter what genre you're into, if you want to check out a truly remarkable album, "Picaresque" won't disappoint or bore you for a second. Expand
  59. Dec 15, 2012
    9
    Great album with several really good songs my favorites being 16 Military Wives and The Infanta. Both of which have excellent lyrics and instrumentation. This album also has a variety of sounds on it so you won't be bored and most of songs have a great story if you really listen to them especially The Mariner's Revenge Song. Well worth the money!
Metascore
81

Universal acclaim - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 32
  2. Negative: 1 out of 32
  1. [Meloy's] lyrics skip across history... and overflow with mellifluous rhymes. [25 Mar 2005, p.71]
  2. Picaresque is a triumph of theatrical imagination: the culmination of the Decemberists' steady march to greatness in four years of enriched storytelling and folk-rock invention.
  3. The more realized updates of [Her Majesty] that crowd out the backed of Picaresque reveal a wit so bizarre and vaudevillian beauty so ultimately endearing that by the end, Meloy's sprawling form of theatrical folk has us all. [Apr 2005, p.116]