The Decemberists: The King is Dead.

19 Dec

The DecemberistsThe King is Dead is ” the most pastoral, rustic record they’ve ever made”*.

I listened to this album late at night with two old friends whilst waiting for a third to return from a lengthy trip to North America. Spread consistently with a wholesome base of acoustic guitar and top-coat of lead singer Colin Meloy’s vocals, the album is a smooth-flowing collection of relaxed folk songs featuring accordion, raw-sounding string instrumental pieces and a prolific use of harmonica-led melodies.

In the (paraphrased) words of Chase (Old Friend A.), this music – particularly “Rox in the Box” – has the sound of the lengthy, musically-narrated folk tale you’d hear in an ancient pub somewhere in the Irish countryside.

In addition to The Decemberists’ strong folk feeling, The King is Dead flies a visible Country/Western flag, particularly in tracks like “Calamity Song” (which Chase deemed a “cowboy’s bar-brawl number”).

The King is Dead‘s first single, “Down by the Water” and ending track “Dear Avery” stand out within the album for their unconventional use of melody and harmony in relation to the album’s genre. “Down by the Water” is distinctive for backup-vocalist Jenny Conlee’s out-of-conventional-major-key harmonies, and the  chromatic, 1-2-♭3 guitar-led refrain of “Dear Avery” is equally especial.

Its lyrics image-strewn, murky and moderately-cryptic, The Decemberists’ The King is Dead serves well as a late-night contemplative soundtrack.


7 Responses to “The Decemberists: The King is Dead.”

  1. Henry 19 December 2011 at 3:13 PM #

    You forgot to mention how This Is Why We Fight is a complete knicker slicker.

    • Michelle Avenant 20 December 2011 at 2:26 AM #

      a) Thank-you for that wonderful image, Henry {.} (

      b) To be honest, The Decemberists are cool and stuff, but I think Meloy’s whiny-tinny vocals would kill the setting for me a bit.

      • Henry 22 December 2011 at 1:16 PM #

        a) Your statement was pretty obviously sarcastic, and the surviving the world was pointless.

        b) Colin’s voice got on my nerves for the first half of the first song on Picaresque, after which I fell in love with him and his voice. It’s different and admittedly quite whiny, but it’s something that I very quickly got used to. Because Colin needs to father my babies.

        c) But each to their own.

      • Michelle Avenant 24 December 2011 at 7:24 AM #

        Yeah, each to their own. If I had to pick a father for my children based on vocals, it would probably be Nathan Willett… or Julian Casablancas, because that man is a foxxx…

  2. Henry 25 December 2011 at 5:50 PM #

    The Julian part makes me want to make a pun about strokes.
    But seeing as knicker slicker put you off, never mind 🙂

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