The Decemberists: The King Is Dead [Album Review]

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The Decemberists
The King Is Dead
Capitol Records [2011]

After The Decemberists’ last two cerebral concept full-lengths, the band takes a leisurely breath of fresh air and shifts musical direction on their sixth album, The King Is Dead. This record is extremely loose and simple, focusing on an indie Americana sound with strong songwriting and memorable choruses. The Decemberists even step outside the group here, featuring Peter Buck (R.E.M.) playing on three tracks, while Gillian Welch sings on seven of the compositions. All of this creates ten exciting songs that have a typically very serious frontman, Colin Meloy, sounding re-energized and youthful. The King Is Dead represents their shortest record to date, clocking in at 40 minutes. This effort has returned The Decemberists’ focus back to their true strength of writing basic, solid songs. With all of the more arty side of the band gone, you now get a distinct opening drum beat in the foot-tapper “Don’t Carry It All” to a simple gorgeousness in the acoustic “January Hymn.” The King Is Dead still rocks out on rolling tracks like “Down By The Water” and “Calamity Song,” while letting Meloy’s stories be told on the catchy “Rox In The Box.” This record truly represents The Decemberists’ initial “college album” roots and should invite some old fans back to the party who fell off over the last several years. The King Is Dead is an enjoyable listen that has plenty of replay value and once again shines a bright light on the talented Decemberists!

Key Tracks: “Don’t Carry It All” / “Down By The Water” / “Rox In The Box”

Artists With Similar Fire: R.E.M. / Wilco / Gram Parsons

Christopher Anthony
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