now a tie for my best of the month
very nice album from this Oregon band
nothing I can say was bad
Grade - 1.9
released Jan 18th, 2011
from the album - Don't Carry It All - grade 2.5
from all music
Led by Helena, MT, native Colin Meloy, Portland, OR's the Decemberists craft theatrical, hyper-literate pop songs that draw heavily from late-'60s British folk acts like Fairport Convention and Pentangle and the early-'80s college rock grandeur of the Waterboys and R.E.M. The band's initial lineup also included drummer Ezra Holbrook, bassist Nate Query, keyboardist/accordionist Jenny Conlee, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk. Frontman Meloy had previously devoted some time to an alternative country group before breaking off to pursue his craft as a singer/songwriter in the city of Portland, a move that eventually led to the Decemberists' formation. Drawing influence from his degree in creative writing, he began fashioning a hybrid of literate lyrics and wide-ranging pop music, touching upon everything from Sandy Denny to Morrissey in the process.
Before Hush Records released the band's debut album in 2002, the Decemberists baited their initial fans with a five-track EP. Their full-length debut, Castaways and Cutouts, was re-released that same year on the Kill Rock Stars label, and the band began to accumulate a serious fan base. After adding organist and keyboardist Rachel Blumberg to the group, in 2003 the Decemberists released Her Majesty, another fine collection of theatrical indie pop with pastoral sensibilities that further cemented their growing reputation. One year later, a five-part epic EP entitled The Tain -- based on the eighth century Irish poem of the same name -- appeared, followed by the full-length Picaresque in 2005.
The group, which at this point consisted of Meloy, Conlee, Query, Funk, and drummer John Moen, made the move to the major leagues by signing with Capitol Records in advance of 2006's The Crane Wife, which managed to hit number 35 on the Billboard 200. The album also grabbed the attention of comedian/actor Stephen Colbert, who challenged Funk to a guitar solo competition during a live taping of his show, The Colbert Report. For their next project, the Decemberists tackled one of Meloy's most ambitious ideas to date: an honest to God rock opera. The Hazards of Love appeared in 2009, featuring a fantasy-filled story line as well as cameos from My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark, and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden. In January 2011 the band released The King Is Dead, a concise and rustic country-pop collection that featured guest appearances by Peter Buck and Gillian Welch.
The Decemberists' fifth, full-length studio outing finds the Portland, OR-based indie rock collective exploring a region that has thus far eluded them. Raised on a steady diet of Morrissey, Robyn Hitchcock, Shirley Collins, and Fairport Convention, The King Is Dead represents frontman Colin Meloy's first foray into the musical traditions of his homeland, or more specifically, it proves that he really, really likes R.E.M. “Calamity Song,” which is one of three tracks to feature guitar work from Peter Buck, threatens to break into “Pretty Persuasion” or "So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)" at any moment, and first single “Down by the River” flirts with “The One I Love” hard enough to take it on a long weekend, though Meloy has stated that the track “started out as more of a paean to R.E.M. than I think any of us really wanted it to.” David Rawlings and Gillian Welch also join the party on a number of tracks, lending their instantly recognizable voices to two of the album’s finest moments, the Wildflowers-era, Tom Petty-inspired “Don’t Carry It All” and the lovely, Paul Simon-esque “June Hymn” -- Meloy and Welch, the former a Montana-born Anglophile and the latter a California girl with a fetish for dust bowl Appalachia -- harmonize nicely, canceling out each other’s vocal affectations. It’s by far the clearest and most commercial collection of tunes the band has amassed to date, but it’s also the least interesting. It may sound like a cross between Camper Van Beethoven's Key Lime Pie and R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, but none of the tracks have the gravitas or potential staying power of a song like “Sweethearts” (CVP) or “Find the River” (R.E.M.). That said, it’s a refreshing change from the usual compilation of bibliophile, sea shanty/murder ballad, and while the Led Zeppelin III-style rural overhauling may isolate fans who prefer the serpentine, progressive art rock of albums like The Crane Wife and Hazards of Love, it opens up a whole new continent for the band to explore.
1 Don't Carry It All Meloy 4:17
2 Calamity Song Meloy 3:49
3 Rise to Me Meloy 4:59
4 Rox in the Box Meloy 3:09
5 January Hymn Meloy 3:13
6 Down by the Water Meloy 3:41
7 All Arise! Meloy 3:09
8 June Hymn Meloy 3:57
9 This Is Why We Fight Meloy 5:30
10 Dear Avery Meloy 4:51