Album cover for The Decemberists' The King Is Dead
The Decemberists are known for storytelling approach on entire albums. My personal familiarity with them goes back just a few years to their The Crane Wife record, which I thought was a really good record but apparently, according to fans, wasn’t as good as the ones that preceded it. The album that came after, The Hazards Of Love, I felt was a huge step down as it dug very deeply into the prospects of the story it revolved around almost as if ignoring the prospect that somebody might be listening.
The King Is Dead is different from anything they’ve done as it doesn’t have a single theme among the tracks and the songs themselves are more influenced by folk and country rather than an indie/progressive rock sound. Individually, the songs stand as strong as O Valencia was able to, while together, the record has a continuing feeling of completion and satisfaction. Gillian Welch sings backup vocals for the entire record and adds a very warm mix to the overall sound, which would otherwise sound lonely with just Colin Meloy.
Like The Crane Wife 3 did for the opening of that record, this album’s opener, Don’t Carry It All, provides a nice introduction to what the rest provides. All Arise! is one of the highlights, a pure country track backed by fiddle with a traditional arrangement while This Is Why We Fight, one of the singles, channels early Dave Matthews Band in its slightly folky rock sound.
The overall sound of this record doesn’t sway too far from what they’ve become known for. I am still reminded of the traditional folk influences that make up much of the music that comes from Ireland via Canada’s east coast when listening to the arrangements of much of this record. While The King Is Dead may not please longtime fans of The Decemberists, it is sure to attract new fans of general folk and folk rock music and hopefully provide a new window of opportunity for the band to win over their new audience while staying true to the sounds that made them one of indie rock’s most beloved bands.
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 Humn
9. This Is Why We Fight
10. Dear Avery