The long overdue Spring is here, which may have factored in the January 14 release of the Decemberists sixth studio album, “The King Is Dead.” This album is, quite simply, spawning change.
The harmonica blast to open the LP in “Don’t Carry It All” is like exhaling, preparing you for the bucolic nature of their latest creation. The high energy continues on through the “Calamity Song” which is aided by R.E.M. co-founder and guitarist, Peter Buck. Don’t worry fans, he makes an appearance on two additional tracks and is rumored to have heavily influenced this album.
The Decemberists are an indie band from Portland fronted by Colin Meloy. Meloy tends to write songs and albums taking on a character and telling a story. In this case, new beginnings are on the horizon. This type of album is a change from their more common, British isles-influenced style.
It is positive, enlightening, and refreshing in the way the Decemberists always seem to be with their folk sound, though in this album, the band seems to colonize themselves to their American roots adding a bit of bluegrass and blues. They even bring Gillian Welch, Americana songstress, into the mix. To prove the point further, the album itself was recorded at Pendarvis Farm in Oregon. This album is certainly of the Earth and their most polished to date.
Meloy does not disappoint with the intelligent lyrics, accompanied by the array of unique instruments, the pump organ, violin (provided by Annalisa Tornfelt), steel guitar and mandolin to name a few. In “January Hymn” Colin creates such beautiful imagery of regret and thought, “What were the words I meant to say before you left? When I could see your breath lead where you were going to.” The entire song is a beautiful interpretation of the album as a whole. How things once were, how they are now and what they might be.
There is a feeling of being grounded while listening throughout this LP. The Decemberists take you on a journey through a winding, country road. Yet they still maintain their core style in songs like “ This Is Why We Fight” and “Dear Avery,” which close the album in the hopes of leading you back home.
“The King is Dead.” Long live the King.
By Natalie Kontur