The Decemberists "The King is Dead" Review — 4 out of 5 Stars
Fri, 21 Jan 2011 09:53:46
The Decemberists Photos
The Decemberists Videos
The Decemberists are beloved. Like revered. Like they have disciples and get reviewed in Time and shit. But guess what? They deserve all those accolades and more. They make accessible but provocative Americana and roots rock infused with just the perfect amount of blues, soul and folk, and a touch of countrified guitar work. On top of all that sonic goodness, frontman Colin Meloy is a gifted -blessed, even- storyteller; he invites you to sit at his knee and gaze up at him as paints a visual picture with his lyrics and his warm voice through the whole of The King is Dead.
The King is Dead, which is reportedly a reference to Michael Jackson, opens with a soulful but breezy ditty "Don't Carry It All," and I actually listened to this track six times in a row before I even made it to the second song Why? Simply because I was so magnetically attracted to the down-home, glorious vibe of the opening track, thanks to the strings, the harmonicas and and the story that Meloy was telling as his voice mingles with what surrounds it. What's that tell ya? It's the right choice for an album opener and it's just a magical, beautifully constructed song that exposes more and more of itself with each listen. This song is better than most band's entire catalogs.
When I finally pulled myself away from my addict-like jones for "Don't Carry It All," I was able to soak in the somewhat urgent "Calamity Song," the more contemplative yet twangy "Rise to Me" and the escalating "January Hymn," each of which have their own distinct musical DNA and style, but are united by Meloy's emotive voice and layers upon layers of instrumentation that allow themselves to be peeled away in discovery.
The King Dead is as American as cheeseburgers, apple pie and baseball, yet it retains that indie vibe that made the band so attractive in the first place. It's not easy to be accessible and independent, but somehow, The Decemberists dip their toes gingerly in both worlds. The King is Dead could very well be the album that opens them up to the contingent that has yet to experience them. The fact that R.E.M.'s Peter Buck appears on a handful of tracks doesn't hurt in terms of expanding the band's world, either. It's a solid album from stem to stern and even though it's only January, expect The King is Dead to top many critic and fan top 10 lists when 2o11 fades to black.
If you like music that continues to reveal itself with repeated listens, then The King is Dead will become a top selection on your iPod playlist.
Have you heard The King Is Dead yet?