The Decemberists - The King Is Dead 

Quaintly traditionalist combo tones down the geeky sneer

click to enlarge 1095343.jpg

The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
Rough Trade/Capitol

The charm of the Decemberists' literature class whimsy and scrappy barroom folk-rock became stretched on 2009's outlandish The Hazards of Love, making its follow-up a pivotal moment. Rolling back song cycle ambitions with The King Is Dead, they offer their best since moving to Capitol, and their most commercial. Its slick country-rock sound doesn't hide its influences — Neil Young and R.E.M. shadow the effort, with Peter Buck contributing guitar bits — but the polish suits the band well. Toning down his geeky sneer, Colin Meloy affects a newfound croon that soars over some of the tightest songs in the catalog, from the Appalachia-with-horns "Calamity Song" to the cinematic ballad "Dear Avery."

Gillian Welch's presence on several cuts keeps any threat of insincerity in check; weight and sadness abound. "This Is Why We Fight" suggests a world in which Murmur and War are the same album, and it feels like self-discovery. Without the aid of pretentious narratives and gallows humor, the Decemberists have found an ideal niche, quaintly traditionalist but bent enough for an addictive rush of excitement.


More by Nathan Phillips

Best Things to Do In Detroit


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

© 2016 Detroit Metro Times

Website powered by Foundation