It has been established album to album that The Decemberists are the type of nerdy twee we love and hate. From all the way back at Her Majesty, we could hear the incredibly clever, but complicated references that only a historian or a librarian would pick up on on first listen through. It is beyond appreciated but really does restrict the music’s accessibility to the wide range of listeners.
Combined with the shocker that was The Hazards of Love, I lost my faith in what could have come from Colin Meloy. Yet here I stand with something that refreshed my love for this Portland folk band. This new creation is airy and light and captures what helped me fall in love with The Decemberists in the first place. There is no underlying concept in the album besides putting out a solid folk record.
Album opener “Don’t Carry it All” is a rustic and grand welcome to a sound we wanted to hear. It exemplifies an old Americana free feeling. If you pick up on a young Neil Young you won’t be alone at all. What is the best part is nothing stops at the first track. “January Hymn” and “All Arise!” capture what the band does best, pure folk with emotion.
The King is Dead also brings in Peter Buck (R.E.M), Gillian Welch and David Rawlings to guest preform on most of the tracks. “January Hymn” is guest free, but that shouldn’t deter you from listening to the rest. It is easy to say that 2011 started out strong with the smoothest, most roomy Decemberists album to date. If you were scared to get into Meloy’s work before now, listen to this first. You’ll want to explore the band’s 10 years of music after hearing The King is Dead.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G
Key Tracks: “Don’t Carry It All”, “Down By The Water”, and “January Hymns”
Recommended if you like: The New Pornographers, Iron & Wine, and Death Cab For Cutie.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!