[lastfm]The Decemberists[/lastfm] have been around for 11 years now, which in indie-rock years is about 150. The bandmembers built their name on a unique style of symphonic pop coupled with singer [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Colin Meloy[/lastfm]’s literary, historical-narrative lyrics. Their early albums included ballads about infant monarchs and the Spanish Armada and featured accordions as often as guitars.
As they progressed, the Decemberists got more and more ambitious with their albums, culminating in 2009’s The Hazards of Love. That release was a full on rock opera that some hailed as a masterpiece of a concept album and others derided as a Dungeons and Dragons soundtrack.
Since the band clearly pushed that element to its logical extreme, where do they go next?
In a graceful shift that few other bands could have pulled off, The Decemberists retreated to the woods of their native Portland, Oregon to record what is sonically and lyrically their most straightforward album. On brand-new release The King is Dead, [lastfm]The Decemberists[/lastfm] trade their accordians for slide guitars and their sea shanties for old-fashioned country songs.
The result is a bunch of laid back, elegant and simple tracks that only a band with the experience and maturity of [lastfm]The Decemberists[/lastfm] could have pulled off. These “reinvention” albums are always tricky, but [lastfm]The Decemberists[/lastfm] walk the fine line between new and old with ease. That is to say, if you enjoyed past [lastfm]Decemberists[/lastfm] albums, don’t worry – Meloy’s lyrics are still front and center, and their quirky pop sensibilities are intact.
This is still an album that sounds like [lastfm]The Decemberists[/lastfm], but it also sounds like something new. On the rousing opener “Don’t Carry It All,” for instance, after a loud blast of harmonica, the song launches into a floor-stomping acoustic guitar rhythm.
Country music is certainly a touchstone for [lastfm]Decemberists[/lastfm]’s new sound, but nature might be the band’s biggest influence on The King is Dead. The album’s cover art shows a dark wall of pine trees, like you’re looking out at the woods from the porch of a cabin at dusk. The songs on The King is Dead reflect that image. This is an album where [lastfm]Decemberists[/lastfm] find new roots, not in the Victorian-era tales of their past albums, but in the backwoods of their native Oregon.
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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