The Decemberists - The King Is Dead (Cover Artwork)

The Decemberists

The Decemberists: The King Is DeadThe King Is Dead (2011)
Universal Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: kirafacekiraface
(others by this writer | submit your own)

The Decemberists' sixth studio release, The King Is Dead, moved 93,567 units in its debut week to give the little band from Portland, Ore., its first number #1 record. The Decemberists have personally always been a pretty mediocre band on my radar. I didn't dislike them, but they never quite move.
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The Decemberists' sixth studio release, The King Is Dead, moved 93,567 units in its debut week to give the little band from Portland, Ore., its first number #1 record.

The Decemberists have personally always been a pretty mediocre band on my radar. I didn't dislike them, but they never quite moved me. I've always lumped them in that "nice background music that can be easily ignored" category. However, I honestly feel like this album I'll return to time and time again. With The King Is Dead, Colin Meloy and company delivers a nice spread that's equal-parts folk, rock, country and Americana, with a dash of sweet little twang. What this album doesn't have is a concept, which is 100% fine.

Meloy has said in interviews leading up to this release that they intentionally took a turn away from concept rock opera-ness of 2009's The Hazards of Love. It's true that a non-concept album might be the easier route, but this album feels very authentic in a way I've never heard the Decemberists before. The end result is a completely eclectic but also accessible album that sounds effortless. Some diehard fans might miss the lack of concept/storytelling. But just because there isn't a singular storyline throughout The King Is Dead doesn't mean its creditability and musicianship is diluted.

The King is Dead is an homage to the Smiths' album The Queen Is Dead, but the title is where the reference stops. The overall sound is much more relevant to R.E.M. than Morrissey (although Meloy's 2005 EP of Morrissey covers is pretty legit). The R.E.M.-ness makes sense due to Peter Buck (of R.E.M.) appearing on several tracks contributing mandolin and 12-string guitar.

The opening track "Don't Carry It All" is surely in the running for best opening track for 2011. It's twangy and folky, filled with harmonica and vocal harmonies. It's perfect for either a solo Sunday afternoon drive or a sold-out show with the entire crowd singing along.

The King Is Dead has great texture. "All Arise!" is a little honky-tonk coming right after "Down by the Water", which is one of the moodiest songs on the album next to "This Is Why We Fight". But despite all the non-concept, cornucopia of sound, The King Is Dead flows straight through all 10 tracks.

A personal standout on the album is "June Hymn". It might be my own personal yearning for a warm summer day with snow currently everywhere. But it is also one of the simplest songs on the album, which really puts those vocal harmonies shown throughout the album in the spotlight. There is also a really delightful harmonica solo that isn't mind-blowing in any way–just beautiful.

As an added fun fact, even though I assume it's partially due to Amazon.com selling the album for $3.99 (and now only $7.99), two out of every three copies of The King Is Dead sold in the first week were sold digitally. As Meloy said himself in the opening track, "Here we come to a turning of the season." Indeed.


People who liked this also liked:
The Gaslight Anthem - American SlangAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!Bomb the Music Industry! - VacationAgainst Me! - White CrossesAlkaline Trio - This AddictionThe Flatliners - CavalcadeTouché Amoré - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and MeThe Horrible Crowes - ElsieThe Menzingers - On the Impossible Past

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
MN_DrNick (December 13, 2011)

This really grew on me. Top Ten of 2011 for me now.

callitawasteland (March 5, 2011)

I like every song on this.

jp5 (February 18, 2011)

I am seeing these guys tomorrow night at the Paramount in Seattle. Pretty excited. I'm taking my daughter.

greg0rb (February 4, 2011)

Diggin' it. I totally heard Tom Petty as well right as the album kicks off, mrdogg.

theproblemwithfire (February 4, 2011)

i like this band best when they're playing fun pop music. i think they're trying to hard to cover too many genres on the last couple albums. this kinda style is big now-so they're playing it. it's performed well but it's ultimately just boring.

conebone69 (February 4, 2011)

Make that two duds in a row for the Decemberists

Banger (February 4, 2011)

I freaking love this album. There is not a single bad song on it.

I saw them at the Beacon Theatre last week and shot this video of "June Hymn," which is indeed a beautiful song.


frank_newland (February 4, 2011)

To be honest, I liked this album, but it felt more like Tarkio (Meloy's previous band) than Decemberists. They've always had a feel closer to European folk and I kinda liked that about them. Good songs on this album, but it just doesn't feel like it's really Decemberists to me.

slymer (February 4, 2011)

The Decemberists have always been pretty much hit or miss. The Hazards of Love was a complete miss, so I was ready to completely write them off. I came across The King is Dead at Best Buy and it was only $6.99, so I figured what the hell and picked it up. I'm glad I did. This album is far and away the best thing they've ever done. Nothing else they've put out even comes close. There isn't a bad song on this album. Songs "Don't Carry It All", "Rise to Me", and "June Hymn" are flat out amazing. Highly recommended

drunkwithpower (February 4, 2011)

Enough of this "little band that could" stuff. This band is really popular. Their show here tonight sold out months ago, it's at a 3,000 capacity venue. BUt anyway, this album is pretty good.

Rastid (February 4, 2011)

anyone see that episode of space ghost coast to coast called "king dead"? that shit was hilarious.

mrdogg45 (February 4, 2011)

"Don't Carry It All" is dope, no doubt, but it has to be said: it's basically a folk version of Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How it Feels."

TheMike (February 4, 2011)

Yeah, this is a very good album. Much better than the previous turd they released. The last three songs are the standouts, to me. Even the doubters should listen to "This is Why We Fight".

My favourite of their albums is still The Crane Wife, however.

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