The Decemberists – The King Is Dead (Rough Trade) 17/01/2011

January 9, 2011 by  

Two years on from their last release, January 2011 sees the welcome return of Oregon’s The Decemberists with a new album titled The King Is Dead.

The ten song strong release is the band’s sixth studio album to date and in general is a splendid representation of the familiar ramshackle cum folk cum croon sound that the band has portrayed historically.

Interestingly, and clearly evidence of the respect that The Decemberists now command from both musical piers and fans alike, The King Is Dead features the playing services of a certain Peter Buck of REM fame.

Perhaps not coincidentally and possibly the reason for Buck’s involvement, The King is Dead sees The Decemberists take a slight change of tack and this latest album is more ‘to the point’ than previous work. Despite this, fans who would describe themselves as purists will rest easy knowing that The King is Dead is still littered with all of the delights that make The Decemberists, well, The Decemberists.

Noticeably more upbeat compared to the group’s previous albums this latest offering lurches to life with the energy of a live set and is complemented throughout by a rich mix of harmonica, violin, hooky lyrics and the familiar vocal of singer Colin Meloy. Interestingly, hints of ‘Nashville’ are common throughout the album, which is made possible by the lashings of slide guitar loitering on a number of the tracks.

To single out stand out tracks on The King Is Dead is difficult and not because there are none, but actually as there are too many. Down By The Water and This Is Why We Fight, both with harmonica and the duelling vocal of Meloy and ‘other’ Decemberist Jenny Conlee in common, are particularly strong, if not perfect. Ironically, Calamity Song is far from what the track’s name suggests and not surprisingly following earlier comments, has shades of REM about it.

Whilst The King Is Dead sees The Decemberists take a perhaps more conventional path, it is a refreshing, glittering release with little filler. More importantly the album also has enough substance that should, undoubtedly, make it become one of the highlights of 2011.

Long Live The Decemberists.

[rating:4.5]


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