Decemberists – King Is Dead

10 Jan

The King Is Dead, the band’s sixth album and the follow-up to their 2009 release, The Hazards of Love, surprises new and old listeners alike with creative instrumentation and narrative-style lyrical threads.

The band consistently captures a feeling of awe, wistfulness, and true appreciation for the simple things in life, both through their lyrics and organic instrumentation. Words not often heard in any musical genre, such as “panoply” (as in, “And you were waking / And day was breaking / A panoply of song” from “June Hymn”) and “anon” (as in, “The season rubs me wrong / The summer swells anon” in “Down by the Water”) flow naturally through many tracks, without sounding pretentious or forced.

Led by vocalist and instrumentalist Colin Meloy (whose talents include tenor guitar, harmonica, and pump organ), The Decemberists recorded The King Is Dead in a converted barn outside their home base of Portland, Oregon. The band’s obvious connection to all things earthy shines through on multiple tracks, notably “January Hymn,” an homage to the carefree nature of childhood from the perspective of a pensive adult.

While Meloy admits that “Down by the River” pays tribute to R.E.M., the rest of the album shows glimmers of various influences, but the overall result is one of pure originality. Country and Americana icon Gillian Welch lends her voice to seven tracks, but her harmonies blend with the rest of the band so well as to render her nearly unnoticeable. While the band’s sound is overall American, Meloy is a bit of an Anglophile, a cultural shift most obvious on “Rox in the Box.” The bouzouki and violin melody transitions nicely into the final track, “This Is Why We Fight,” whose chorus leaves the listener with a thought that more or less sums up The Decemberists’ carefree musical philosophy: “And when we die / We will die / With our arms unbound.”

Download The King Is Dead Here.

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