The Decemberists have never been anything but themselves. From day one, the Portland players were unapologetic bookworms creating period pieces in sound, dreamy acoustic narratives starring sailors, ghosts, actors and athletes.

The Decemberists have never been anything but themselves. From day one, the Portland players were unapologetic bookworms creating period pieces in sound, dreamy acoustic narratives starring sailors, ghosts, actors and athletes.

They've always been polarizing, but as their operatic ambitions have grown with each passing album, the band's egghead stink has made their fans more passionate and their detractors ever more contemptuous.

Let's venture through the Decemberists' discography to discover how they became so distinctly divisive.

5 Songs (2001)

Pretentious from the start! The group's humble debut EP was deliberately misleading - it contains six tracks. "My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist" sets the tone for future historical fiction tropes.

Castaways and Cutouts (2002)

The Decemberists' first full-length found Colin Meloy's tales of ancient churches and weary legionnaires set against serene folk-pop. It's like a set of short stories from an aspiring novelist. The one exceptionally lengthy track, "California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade," is set in modern times.

Her Majesty (2003)

This transitional album found the band moving toward more conventional pop structures and crisper production. The literary stuff is more in-your-face from the start, with "Shanty for the Arethusa" leading to an album of soldiers, chimbley sweeps and high-flying gymnasts. "I Was Meant for the Stage" hints at Meloy's future intentions.

The Tain (2004)

A single five-song suite incorporating elements of prog and metal, The Tain was the Decemberists' most ambitious project yet. Its subject matter, ancient Irish mythology, cemented the band once and for all as four-eyed geeks.

Picaresque (2005)

With production upgraded to studio-slick, tracks like "The Infanta," "Eli the Barrow Boy" and "The Engine Driver" dive headfirst into sepia-tone storytelling. If there was ever a turning point that sent cynics scurrying and engendered undying affection from the band's core audience, it was "The Mariner's Revenge Song." On tour, the group turned this eight-minute story-song into a cutesy, interactive bit of musical theater, asking the audience to cry out and fall over.

The Crane Wife (2006)

The meek acoustic balladry of Castaways long cast aside, this concept LP was built around two song cycles - one based on Japanese folklore, the other on Shakespeare's The Tempest. Musically, it contains some of the band's most triumphant gestures and, in the case of Meloy's saccharine duet with Laura Veirs, its most regrettable moves.

The Hazards of Love (2009)

At long last, Meloy realized his ambitions of crafting a no-holds-barred rock opera. The result was The Hazards of Love, a riff-heavy opus that Wikipedia explains thusly: "A woman named Margaret falls in love with a shape-shifting forest dweller. ... A jealous forest queen and an ensemble of recurring characters bring conflict to the album's story arc." What a bunch of sissy nerds, huh?! What a bunch of rich, popular, sissy nerds ...