January 13, 2011

The Decemberists - The King is Dead

I can't say I've ever had a favorite Decemberists album. I love their first four albums all pretty much equally. Castaways and Cutouts introduced them as a unique band with poetic lyrics and intricate melodies. Her Magesty and Picaresque did pretty much the same. The Crane Wife was especially ambitious and progressed the band even further. Their fifth album The Hazards of Love has some fantastic songs (namely The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid, A Bower Scene, Won't Want For Love), but seems a little too over the top to be a Decemberists album. However, on The King is Dead, we can hear a refreshing return to their earlier material.

The opening track 'Don't Carry It All' sets the mood perfectly and makes it clear with its resonant harmonica and powerful harmonies that The Decemberists have scrapped the whole epic, dramatic progressive-rock sound from H.O.L, while still retaining the captivating, lively folk-rock sound that made me start listening to them in the first place. The next few songs keep the pace going and the vibrant melodies don't let down. Towards the end though, the songs start to get weary and a little bland, but luckily the last track 'Dear Avery' ends the album comfortably.

Clearly The Decemberists weren't looking for another huge album. They chose a very familiar route for this one, but in general the songs on the second half of it are fairly dull and too neutral to stand out. I don't like it as much as their first albums, but I could see myself listening to The King is Dead in the future, and it's certainly a good road trip album, like any Decemberists album.

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 Hymn
9. This Is Why We Fight
10. Dear Avery


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