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The King Is Dead

4.6 out of 5 stars 204 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

2011 album from the Portland-based Alt-Rock/Folk band. The King Is Dead is a mostly-acoustic set of concise, Americana-based songs, that marks a deliberate turn towards simplicity after the band's wildly ambitious and acclaimed 2009 song-cycle The Hazards Of Love. Produced once again by Tucker Martine, The King Is Dead features special guest appearances by Americana luminary Gillian Welch and legendary R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. The album showcases the ways in which The Decemberists sound just as glorious in simple, stripped-down compositions as they do on the elaborate structures that have defined their work for years. The album was recorded in a converted barn at Pendarvis Farm, an 80-acre estate of lush meadows, forest, and Mt. Hood views outside of Portland.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 18, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Capitol
  • ASIN: B0049OSQ18
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,279 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Evan Staley on January 18, 2011
Format: MP3 Music
It took this album to make me admit I haven't loved The Decemberists more recent work as much as I would have liked. For all the great moments on The Hazards of Love and The Crane Wife (and there are many), there were also copious amounts of convolution and sort of awkward prog rock (see: The Island/...). The result was never strong enough to rob The Decemberists of their title as my favorite band, it just left me feeling like I should still be loving them more.

One listen of The King is Dead is all it took for me to remember why I still love this band, and it took none of the effort I had to invest in their bigger albums. The Decemberists, to me, don't write pretty music or clever lyrics as much as they conjure up a portal to somewhere far more romantic and beautifully tragic. Songs like Grace Cathedral Hill or On The Bus Mall still never fail to pull me into their worlds. This time around, things are far simpler than they ever have been, but the effect is similar. There are no long songs, nothing that will require 15 minutes of focus and a dictionary to figure out, nothing set in the late 1800s, and no tragically doomed romance. The result is a beautifully coherent album that may not pull you out of reality like their past works, but it will wrap this world in a gauzy glow for the sublime 40 minutes it sticks around.

I'm once again very excited to see where they go from here, but so grateful to have this in the meantime.

4.5/5
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Format: Audio CD
"The King is Dead" the new and sixth album by Portland's finest "The Decemberists" sees Colin Meloy and chums return with an album of much more straightforward songs than their previous theatrical concept outing "The Hazards of Love". The consequence for this reviewer is unadulterated pleasure since while Hazards was an impressive piece of work it is the Decemberists of the "Picaresque" era which really starts the pulses racing. Having listened to this album for two weeks streaming on NPR you will find a hugely accessible and accomplished set full of crisp Americana based songs with enough hooks to catch mackerel as evidenced by the thumping opener "Don't carry it all". In the background throughout "TKID" you will also detect the influence of two master musicians namely the jangle guitar miester Peter Buck from REM and one of gods representatives on earth, Gillian Welch the great Appalachian style country singer who sings on seven of the ten tracks.

Listen to the huge alt country ballad "Rise to me" or the gentling rolling "All arise" full of guitars, fiddle, accordion, harmonica and pedal steel to detect Welch's direct influence and it is a force for good. Not that this greater simplicity has blunted Meloy's wordy gymnastics. Anyone who can rhyme "enzymes" with "fault line" deserves a pat on the back as does the use of REM style "Reckoning" era motifs in the brilliant "Calamity song". The rootsy "Rox in the box" sounds like a nod to Mike Scott and his folk fest "Room to roam" and for good measure the Decemberists throw in a snatch of the folk standard "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" to add spice. Meloy's acoustic guitar picked ballads are always lovely and sumptuous and "January Hymn" is one of his finest yet and will one day figure on the "Best of the Decemberists".
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When I heard Black Prairie's album last year I thought to myself, "Man, it'd be great if they could bring some of this sound to the Decemberists." Well, that's exactly what "The King is Dead" delivered. After hearing them perform "Down by the Water" at Bumbershoot in Seattle last summer, I knew this album had the potential to be good, but I never imagined it would be this great! I've been a huge fan of the Decemberists since "Her Majesty" came out in 2003, but this album was like hearing them for the first time again. After one listen, I was immediately reminded of R.E.M. (no surprise since Peter Buck played a major role in making the album) as well as a hint of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon." Apart from these influences, the album still maintains a sound that can only be described as distinctly and uniquely Decemberists. So, if you've ever loved the Decemberists, I have no doubt that you'll enjoy this latest addition to their already incredible catalogue.
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This album is amazing. It's accessible, beautiful, and evergreen.

I loved the previous album (The Hazards of Love), but there was something about it that made it difficult to simply turn on in the middle of the day or during a party. It needed a full audience with full attention. The Kind is Dead works on every level for any listener.
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"The King is Dead" is The Decemberists' sixth studio album and their most recent release since 2009's folk-rock opera masterpiece "The Hazards of Love." As one of the most anticipated albums of 2011, it's exciting to see it released in the first few weeks of the year.

"The King is Dead" opens with Colin Meloy singing "Here we come to a turning of the season."

Listeners soon find out this is a lyrical preparation for the night and day difference between this album and their last.

Where "The Hazards of Love" showered the ears with vast arrangements that flowed gracefully from one song to the next, "The King is Dead" strips The Decemberists down to their core, focusing on tight performances and beauty in simplicity.

Longtime fans will find some aspects of this record familiar, but a greater American folk influence than before gives "The King is Dead" a new and exciting feel.

After "Don't Carry It All" sets the mood of the album, The Decemberists quickly dive into the first of many miniature tributes on "The King is Dead." "Calamity Song" opens with a guitar riff so similar to R.E.M.'s "Talk About Passion" that it could only be played by Peter Buck, which it is.

For the track, R.E.M.'s founding guitarist offers up his trademark tone from their classic record "Murmur" sped up to suit The Decemberists' upbeat nod to Americana.

Any fans hoping for another classic Decemberists sailor tune complete with fiddle and accordion need look no further than "Rox in the Box." Although this song is really only one of two that fit their original mold, it proves Meloy and company have not completely abandoned the familiar seas of their past for uncharted waters.
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