The Decemberists – January Hymn – Is This The Better Way To Spend The Day?

January Hymn - The Decemberists

Portland, Oregon’s The Decemberists released their pastoral offering of precious songs, The King Is Dead, in January of 2011. For singer songwriter Colin Meloy the album was an attempt to reconnect with Americana, “If there’s anything academic about this record, or me trying to force myself in a direction, it was realising that the last three records were really influenced by the British Folk revival….this whole world that I was discovering, that I was poring over, learning inside-out. It was a wanting to get away from that. And looking back into more American traditions, reconnecting with more American music.” Meloy cited the influence of R.E.M. and three of the songs feature the guitar work of Peter Buck.

“January Hymn,” a wonderfully simple and poignant vignette, mixes wistful winter imagery with the melancholic memory of a lost love and magically captures the loneliness and solitude of a winter day. Meloy artfully adds the touching image of clearing away the snow and greening the ground below which lends the song a sense of the promise of a return to spring and hope. The message is musically presented as a traditional American folk song, communicated with delicate passion by Meloy who is backed by haunting ghostly background vocals.

“On a winter’s Sunday I go
To clear away the snow and green the ground below
April, all an ocean away, is this the better way to spend the day?
Keeping the winter at bay
the king is dead
What were the words I meant to say before you left?
When I could see your breath lead where you were going to
Maybe I should just let it be and maybe it will all come back to me
Sing, oh, January, oh
How I lived a childhood in snow
And all my teens in tow, stuffed in strata of clothes
Pale the winter days after dark
Wandering the gray memorial park, a fleeting beating of hearts
What were the words I meant to say before she left?
When I could see her breath lead where she was going to
Maybe I should just let it be and maybe it will all come back to me
Sing, oh, Janu, oh January, oh “