The Decemberists / The King Is Dead

The King Is Dead

The Decemberists are an indie folk rock band from Portland, Oregon, United States, fronted by singer/songwriter Colin Meloy. The other members of the band are Chris Funk (guitar, multi-instrumentalist), Jenny Conlee (hammond organ, accordion, melodica, piano, keyboards, harmonica), Nate Query (bass guitar, string bass), and John Moen (drums, backing vocals, melodica, guitar).

The band’s debut EP, 5 Songs, was self-released in 2001. Their sixth full-length album, The King Is Dead, was released on 14 January 2011, by Capitol Records. It was the band’s third record with the label.

In addition to their lyrics, which often focus on historical incidents and/or folklore, The Decemberists¬†are also well known for their eclectic live shows. Audience participation is often a part of each performance, typically during encores. The band stages whimsical reenactments of sea battles and other centuries-old events, typically of regional interest, or acts out songs with members of the crowd. During their European tour in the winter of 2010, the band performed “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” at the conclusion of each date. The audience was encouraged to scream as if they were being consumed by a whale mentioned in the track’s narrative while the band pretended to die on stage.

The Analysis:

Don’t Carry It All—-If you have followed this band at all, the first thing you notice upon first listen is the remarkable difference between this release and The Crane Wife. The entire release has a remarkable Alt-Country sound that makes my heart warm and puts a smile on my face. The harmonica and the slight drawl on this track makes it damn near perfect…underneath there is an urgency to the music that assures you to whom you are listening to….fantastic!!!

Calamity Song—-Bringing to mind a perfect blend of REM and Springsteen all at the same time, the vocal enters and once again I smile like a fool. This has a nice underlying sadness that never overwhelms…settling lightly on the quick tempo of the drums and the back up bass sounds. The vocal is just fantastic…the two vocals come together to create a virtual landscape of beauty…I really love this CD!!!

Rise To Me—-More Country heavy guitar opens this track and allows a dust to settle on your shoulders. The vocal is high and lonely….removed from the song…as it is pushed to the very front. the two voices again come together to harmonize better than Petty and Nicks and the slide guitar leaves you a bit weepy. Wow…what a difference over the previous release….I really like this new direction!

Rox In The Box—-A bit more bombastic in sound, this track still leans heavily on the Alt-Country sound that has made this release a masterpiece. This is a grand old story song…that is full of fiddle and harmonica and steel guitar…where this inspiration came from is a mystery, but the end result is fantastic. How this will all congeal with the back catalog is another thing…but it should make for a pretty interesting show!!!

January Hymn—-Stark and beautiful from the first few notes, the vocal is very upfront in the mix, while the quiet acoustic guitar never becomes to much more than a whisper. Reminding me of a perfect Paul Simon song, the lyrics are heavy with vivid words that are like a huge beautiful piece of artwork. Perhaps my favorite track on this release…haunting and beautiful!!!

Down By The Water—-Loud drums and a raucous harmonica open this track……the ‘noise’ settles a bit to allow for the joined vocal that again carries a heavy down home appeal. This is fantastic…the only thing missing from this track is that familiar Nashville drawl….this is great!!!

All Arise—-Wow….enter the traditional fiddle and the foot stomping country sound that has made many a band huge!!! This is so different that you can’t help but love this. I admire the willingness of the band to do something so vastly different after the really heavy feel of the last release. This is simply fantastic…a stab in the dark that magically found a bullseye!!!!

June Hymn—-Again, opening with harmonica and a gentle Simon & Garfunkel style folk guitar sound, the song is stark yet amazingly beautiful. When the male and female vocals entwine, the sound that is produced is almost a thing of heaven. This is damn near perfect…another of those songs that for the moment…..I can’t possibly live without.

This Is Why We Fight—-Louder and more raucous than almost anything else on this release, the drums are in the very front of the mix…but magically never overpowers the remarkably clear vocal. This is heavy, lyrical wise, but rather catchy musically. The vocal at times almost makes me think of Placebo!!!! The tone is pretty much perfect….this is classic stuff…a nice throwback to 90’s Alternative with a nod to the new century!

Dear Avery—-Ending the release much as it started, the entire thing has left an exquisite taste in my mouth. This is stark, beautiful and heavy with words that you always wished you could say but were never able to formulate in your own brain. The beauty and the sincerity is everywhere…leavin me with a tear on my cheek…wishing i had this release a long time ago….experession is expression…yours or others!!!!

****3/4 out of 5

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