The King Is Dead

Studio Album by released in 2011
The King Is Dead's tracklist:
Don't Carry It All
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Calamity Song
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Rise to Me
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Rox in the Box
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January Hymn
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Down by the Water
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All Arise!
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June Hymn
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This Is Why We Fight
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Dear Avery
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The King Is Dead review

The Decemberists has decided to have some rest from rock operas

The legendary The Smiths released one of its most successful albums The Queen Is Dead in 1986. The band’s long-term fan Colin Meloy, the vocalist of indie-pop band The Decemberists, has decided to remind the audience about that record calling his team’s sixth album The King Is Dead. Yet it has turned out that The Smiths is not the main inspiration source for Meloy and mates. Strange as it may seem, it is the band R.E.M., whose influence is really felt on the new record, especially taking into account the fact that R.E.M.’s guitarist Peter Buck is involved on three of its tracks. Though Tucker Martine has once again produced the album, The King Is Dead is not another epic fairy adventure from The Decemberists as some could be expecting. Most probably the musicians have decided to have some rest from rock operas and recorded an album that combines everything they have achieved stylistically and instrumentally in the last few years with song structures maximum close to standard. This record is undoubtedly a great surprise for their faithful fans and will definitely be of interest to everyone enjoying good quality pop rock.

There is a lot of fun, liveliness and positive mood on The King Is Dead

The band has recorded the album in quite short terms, within six weeks, the recording taking place in the barn on a large farm near Portland, Oregon, where The Decemberists is based. This place has defined the specific character of The King Is Dead, the most pastoral album in the collective’s entire discography. Besides Peter Buck the musician, nsiger and songwriter Gillian Welch has taken part in the recording adding her vocal parts to Meloy’s voice to form wonderful harmonies. Harmonica, drums and a string ensemble of the soulful song Don't Carry It All open the album making it clear at once that there is no place for sullen motifs of previous works here, but a lot of fun, liveliness and positive mood. At the same time Meloy has not refused to write breathtaking stories in some of the tracks’ lyrics, so one is not going to feel bored listening to The King Is Dead by any means. On the first single Down By The Water Buck is playing a twelve-string guitar, harmonica sounding reminds of Neil Young’s hit Heart Of Gold, and it can be also compared to Bruce Springsteen’s works in its atmosphere. The ballad Rise To Me is a splendid reflective number with a country shade in which the vocals mostly sound against an acoustic guitar only. Two hymns devoted to a winter and a summer month, January Hymn and June Hymn, are colored into calm and bright tones respectively, and a county violin on All Arise!, the least serious song on the album, and harmonica of the impetuous number This Is Why We Fight with amazing drums and bass line prove that one does not necessarily need to make up fairy-tales to tell something important. The album closes with another acoustic ballad Dear Avery, very beautiful, melodious, filled with slight sadness and melancholy.

A miracle by means of ordinary guitars, drums, violins and harmonica

The single Down By The Water was released in November, and it was clear at that time already that The Decemberists was preparing something completely new and grandiose. The album The King Is Dead has actually lived up and even exceeded those expectations. The musicians have once again made a miracle but this time not in the sophisticated lyrics but by means of ordinary guitars, drums, violins and harmonica. Of course this does not mean that Meloy’s lyrics have become much simpler – he still adopts literary language, expressing his wise ideas with it, tells stories, and imagines characters. It is just that there is much less pathos on The King Is Dead and much more sincerity. Compositions Don't Carry It All, Calamity Song and Down By The Water are different from the others because they have been recorded with Peter Buck but the rest of the album is also filled with the sense of profundity typical of R.E.M.<’s/a> works. Practice has shown that The Decemberists does not like to make its fans wait – The King Is Dead is released less than two years after the last work The Hazards Of Love, and one can be sure that this original and ever evolving band will present us with new surprises quite soon.

Alexandra Zachernovskaya (24.01.2011)
Rate review4.19
Total votes - 10