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Key Tracks: "Don't Carry It All," "January Hymn," "Down by the Water"
The Decemberists have returned with their newest album, The King Is Dead--the eagerly awaited follow-up to 2009’s The Hazards of Love.
While The Hazards of Love brought a new spectrum of musical ability to The Decemberists’s repertoire, The King Is Dead reverts back to the melancholy folk for which the band is known.
This is the Decemberists’ sixth studio album. So far, each of the band's studio records has gained more attention than the last. With 2005’s Picaresque, produced by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, the band became a staple of the indie music scene. And while the topics frontman Colin Meloy discusses on the band's newest album range from surviving the struggle of day-to-day life to hints of much, much greater things, the album collectively solidifies itself as a candidate for album of the year early in the race.
The band has a wide range of influences shining through on the album. The title alone plays off of the similar title of The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead, and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck appears on multiple tracks, including “Don’t Carry It All,” "Calamity Song" and “Down by the Water.” Buck’s tracks control the album's projection, but that’s not to give less credit to songs such as “January Hymn” and “This Is Why We Fight.”
Perfectly complementing Meloy’s folk-driven songwriting abilities is The Decemberists’ band of multi-instrumentalists. A small orchestra in herself, Jenny Conlee plays a range of instruments, including accordions, organs and pianos. Also featured are vocals from renowned Americana folk artist Gillian Welch.
As the soundtrack to a cross-country road trip, the album paints a picture of vast countrysides and endless roads. Mix that with the complexity of Meloy’s words, Chris Funk’s instrumental talent and Welch’s backing vocals and you are handed America in a bag.
The band resumes touring January 24 in New York for what is undoubtedly one of the most hotly anticipated tours of the year. The ever-present twang of the album can only be topped by a live performance of these same songs.
With albums from Fleet Foxes and Bright Eyes due in 2011, The Decemberists have some stiff competition; nonetheless, it looks to be a great year for folk and indie fans alike if this album is an indication of the caliber of music that 2011 will bring.
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