The Decemberists, The King is Dead

Ryan Reed

By Ryan Reed

on 12.21.11 in Reviews

The King Is Dead

The Decemberists

Armed with mandolins, acoustics and their ever-handy thesaurus, The Decemberists retreated to an 80-acre farm to record their sixth full-length, the decidedly rootsy The King is Dead. Once there, they did things the old-fashioned way: tracking live as a quintet, avoiding unnecessary overdubs, getting to the chorus before they could bore us. From the sound of it, there may have been a tractor or a coonhound involved. Frontman Colin Meloy sounds almost relaxed, his wordy soliloquies rubbing up cozily with his band’s muscle-fueled barnyard stomp. Embracing their inner Appalachians was a smart commercial move, too: Tracks like the R.E.M.-ish twang-rocker “Down by the Water” (its melody is almost identical to “The One I Love”) and the Simon & Garfunkel-esque folk ballad “January Hymn” are among the most hummable moments in the band’s strange, winding discography.