Album Review: The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 00:04
After the Decemberists' 2006 album The Crane Wife, a retelling of an old Japanese folktale, and the 2009 album The Hazards Of Love, a complex rock opera full of characters and conflict that qualifies to join the ranks of Pink Floyd's The Wall and The Who's Tommy, fans expected something different than The Decemberists' latest album, The King Is Dead. It not only lacks a unifying concept such as the ones that tied the previous two albums together, but it also serves as a return to a dominantly acoustic sound.
Recorded in a barn east of Portland, Oregon, the band's hometown, The King Is Dead is the sixth full length release by The Decemberists, and their third with major label, Capitol Records. The album carries a strong Americana vibe, and it would be hard to picture The Decemberists trying to capture these songs in a recording studio in the middle of a major city. The album features plenty of foot-stomping drumbeats, twangy guitar riffs, harmonica fills, traditional fiddling, beautiful acoustic rhythms, and as always, addictive melodies.
From the first few seconds of the beginning track "Don't Carry It All," it is certain what The King Is Dead has in store. The song opens up with a blaring harmonica backed up by a complimenting acoustic guitar rhythm and catchy percussion. Shortly after, front man Colin Meloy introduces the listener with the line: "Here we come to a turning of the season," as if to signal the band's sudden change in direction with their music. amazing
The extremely literate and captivating lyrics Meloy is commonly praised for aren't nearly as present. The King Is Dead lacked the usual wide range of vocabulary, and literary references found in previous albums. With earlier songs, the imagery of the lyricism submerged the listener into the story and the life of the narrator. The music was still as sublime as ever, but the strong storytelling arc of the Decemberists was missing.
This does not mean that The King Is Dead is a bad record. Simplicity is what makes it a great album. The album will continue to grow on the listener with each listen. Fans of traditional folk should easily be able to fall in love with this album. Notable gems to check out are "Down By The Water," "All Arise!" and "This Is Why We Fight." This stripped down version of the Decemberists provides a collection of catchy Americana songs that make a nice addition to their discography and not to mention my music collection.