‘so raise a glass to turnings of the season’

The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
(Capitol, 2011)

Colin Meloy and his Decemberists were an acquired taste for me.  I’m all for intelligent music, but this band from Portland, OR takes intelligence to a new level.  Each release should come packaged with a complimentary Encyclopedia of World History.  When the stories being told are so intricate they actually get in the way of the music, it’s a problem.   Well, it’s a problem for some.  For every 10 people that might be turned off by The Decemberists ‘geek folk‘, there is that one person who can’t get enough; that person who can tell you all about Myla Goldberg, recite the Mariner’s Revenge Song and can actually enjoy the overly ambitious, bloated rock opera that was The Hazards of Love.  I fall somewhere between these two groups of people.  There are songs I enjoy on every Decemberists album and I do like Colin‘s nasally storytelling, but Picaresque is still my favorite album and I have yet to get through The Hazards of Love in one sitting.

The King Is Dead is The Decemberists third major label release and I believe it’s going to win more new fans that it will lose old-school fans.  This album is smart, but it doesn’t let that get in the way of the music.  Essentially, this album rocks!  It’s a little bit country, a little bit folk.  It’s blues and it’s rock ‘n roll.  This album was recorded in a barn and it’s got that rustic feel to it.  It was influenced by The Smiths and R.E.M. and it’s got that alternative rock feel to it.  As soon as the albums kicks off with Don’t Carry It All, with it’s harmonica and marching drumbeat, you know you’re in for something different.   I’m sure the fans that have been around since the beginning will think this is the sound of selling out, but I do believe The Decemberists have made their music extremely more accessible without losing their soul, without losing who The Decemberists are.

The DecemberistsCalamity Song

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