Decemberists 1
Decemberists 1

The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

Original Release Date: January 18, 2011
Release Date: January 18, 2011
Label: Capitol
Copyright: (C) 2011 Capitol Records, LLC
Total Length: 40:30
Genres: Alternative Rock

While The Decemberists have always had a penchant for lush literarary lyrics that frontman/bandleader Colin Meloy enunciates with such erudition, their music has rarely been as extravagant as the words that it accompanies. This is why 2009 came as a somewhat of a surprise when their prog-rock-opera Hazards Of Love exploded with all kinds of ornate lyrics matched with elaborate musical arrangements. It was like a whirlwind of ideas – both in words and sound – tied together by a unifying concept that could come across as an overwhelming challenge to a lot of ears.

This is why this year’s release – The King Is Dead – is like a breath of fresh air. It sees the band rushing out of the thick evergreen forest that was the setting of their previous album, into the rustic open plains where they slow their frenzied pace down to a stroll. This quaint and concise indie folk collection trades tragic and sinister tales for a light and easy atmosphere made possible by relatively bare songcrafting plus that occassional banjo and harmonica accompaniment for that added country flavor. And while it does do away with the ambitiousness of their previous effort, The King Is Dead still retains a lot of the strengths that made their first several albums successful, particularly Meloy’s gift for a sweet melody and acadamic songwriting.

What makes The Decemberists’ music special is that they’re able to take fairly simple musical arrangements and give the music life with such inspired wordcraft. It also works the other way around where their bookish language, which would otherwise sound too scholarly and pretentious, is given accessible character by subtle accompaniment. Either way, it’s a delicate balance that could easily be daunting if one of the pieces got out of hand, which is a point that could be argued for their previous release, but certainly not for this latest effort that affirms the timeless adage: “Less is more.”

1. Don’t Carry It All
2. Calamity Song
3. Rise To Me
4. Rox In The Box
5. January Hymn
6. Down By The Water
7. All Arise!
8. June Hymn
9. This Is Why We Fight
10. Dear Avery

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