“The King is Dead” by The Decemberists

Story by Taylor Kuether

While the overtly country-influenced sound and occasionally uninspired lyrics may disinterest a few listeners, overall The Decemberists have again created and released a full-bodied, diverse album that should spark wide appeal.

The Decemberists’ new album, The King is Dead, released this month, wastes no time as it begins with a bold harmonica solo in the first track, “Don’t Carry It All.” The song translates like an anthem: joyful in releasing responsibilities and hopeful for freeing warm weather.

The Decemberists formed in Portland, Oregon in 2000 and have released six albums since then, the most recent three under the major label Capitol Records. The album that precedes The King is Dead, titled The Hazards of Love, is a well-done concept album telling the epic story of Margaret and her lover William set inside a fantastical forest world.

While the last album was a lengthy one at 17 tracks, The King is Dead is short and sweet, with just ten tracks that seem to fly by. And while The Hazards of Love begins slow and doesn’t pick up until right around mid-album, The King is Dead had the correct balance of slower ballads with catchier tunes sprinkled throughout.

“Calamity Song” added a certain freshness to the album with hints of seventies rock, sounding like The Eagles or America (the British band). They are, though, just hints, and overall the song is full of the slide guitar and faintest of twangs so common to The Decemberists’ catalogue.

“Rox in the Box” is certainly the catchiest track, nestled appropriately in the center of the album for an almost-needed pick-me-up. The fiddle gives the song a lively, though cautionary, feel and connects the foreboding lyrics to the southern-inspired themes.

A low point on the record, “This is Why We Fight” dragged at times but ended with a few unexpectedly soft, almost vintage quality measures of just vocals and guitar.
The final track on the album, “Dear Avery,”  is reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie’s ending to their 2005 album, Plans, in its unassuming dissonance in the first few measures. It quickly turns into a bluesy love ballad begging a girl named Avery to come home. The song, acoustic and minimal, is done in true Decemberists fashion, keeping the tradition of last-song-slow-burners.

Overall, The King is Dead is a perfect listen for those of us who are over the winter chill and ready for lyrics that tug at our summer heartstrings, one example being “June Hymn,” which absolutely lives up to its name.

The album is reminiscent of warm late-spring mornings, the day not quite perfect but certainly likeable. The songs sound accessible and genuine, beckoning listeners from most musical preferences. Groun

The Decemberists, The King is Dead
The Decemberists, The King is Dead

ded and unobtrusive, the group combines country twang with shimmering instrumentals and easy, loose vocals into one warm, lazy album.