2011 album from the Portland-based Alt-Rock/Folk band. The King Is Dead is a mostly-acoustic set of concise, Americana-based songs, that marks a deliberate turn towards simplicity after the band's wildly ambitious and acclaimed 2009 song-cycle The Hazards Of Love. Produced once again by Tucker Martine, The King Is Dead features special guest appearances by Americana luminary Gillian Welch and legendary R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. The album showcases the ways in which The Decemberists sound just as glorious in simple, stripped-down compositions as they do on the elaborate structures that have defined their work for years. The album was recorded in a converted barn at Pendarvis Farm, an 80-acre estate of lush meadows, forest, and Mt. Hood views outside of Portland.
1:Don't Carry It All
3:Rise To Me
4:Rox In The Box
6:Down By The Water
9:This Is Why We Fight 10:Dear Avery
Album: King Is Dead
Don't Carry It All
Rise to Me
Rox in the Box
Down by the Water
This Is Why We Fight
Personnel: Jenny Conlee, John Moen, Nate Query, Chris Funk, Colin Meloy.
Audio Mixer: Tucker Martine.
Recording information: Flora, Portland, OR (2010); Pendarvis Farm, Happy Valley, OR (2010); Sound Factory, Hollywood, CA (2010).
Illustrator: Carson Ellis.
Photographer: Autumn de Wilde.
The Decemberists' sixth, full-length studio outing finds the Portland, Oregon-based indie rock collective exploring a region that has thus far eluded them. Raised on a steady diet of Morrissey, Robyn Hitchcock, Shirley Collins, and Fairport Convention, The King Is Dead represents frontman Colin Meloy's first foray into the musical traditions of his homeland, or more specifically, it proves that he really, really likes R.E.M. "Calamity Song," which is one of three tracks to feature guitar work from Peter Buck, threatens to break into "Pretty Persuasion" or "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)" at any moment, and first single "Down by the Water" flirts with "The One I Love" hard enough to take it on a long weekend, though Meloy has stated that the track "started out as more of a paean to R.E.M. than I think any of us really wanted it to." David Rawlings and Gillian Welch also join the party on a number of tracks, lending their instantly recognizable voices to two of the album's finest moments, the Wildflowers-era, Tom Petty-inspired "Don't Carry It All," and the lovely, Paul Simon-esque "June Hymn" -- Meloy and Welch, the former a Montana-born Anglophile and the latter a California girl with a fetish for dustbowl Appalachia -- harmonize nicely, canceling out each other's vocal affectations. It's a refreshing change from the usual compilation of bibliophile, sea shanty/murder ballad, and while the Led Zeppelin III-style rural overhauling may isolate fans who prefer the serpentine, progressive, art rock of albums like The Crane Wife and Hazards of Love, it opens up a whole new continent for the band to explore. ~ James Christopher Monger
Rolling Stone (p.68) - Ranked #7 in Rolling Stone's '50 Best Albums Of 2011' -- "Singer-songwriter Colin Meloy packs his storytelling eccentricities into pop-song packages of verse, hook and country-Smiths jangle..."
Spin (pp.63-66) - "Ten crisp roots-rock tunes in a mere 40 minutes....The singer appears most deeply engaged with THE KING IS DEAD's more direct, plainspoken moments..."
Entertainment Weekly (p.83) - "The band's latest set is more succinctly rewarding than anything it has done in years." -- Grade: A-
Alternative Press (p.100) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "'January Hymn' and 'June Hymn' flutter by like the gentle campfire ballads they evoke..."
CMJ - "THE KING OF DEAD focuses on what made the Decembrists famous in the first place: Colin Meloy's lyrical oddities and the group's pastoral sound."
Billboard (p.28) - "Lead singer Colin Meloy's irrepressible baritone in all its full-throated glory stands in stark contrast to the unplugged ensemble's dulcet tones."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.106) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The whole album is warm to the touch....[With] straightforward songs, transparent emotions, a little gift both to their fans and themselves."
Clash (magazine) - "[H]arking back to the relative simplicity of PICARESQUE, this latest offering is a finessed folk-rock record to bring a little taste of long summer evening drives..."
Uncut (magazine) (p.76) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[This is] the Decembrists' most immediate and outgoing album....'Dear Avery' is another sublime essay in memory, separation and regret..."
Uncut (magazine) (p.32) - Ranked #26 in Uncut's '50 Best Albums Of 2011' -- "[A] clutch of warm, literate country-rock songs."
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