Style: Folk-rock with country overtones; compare to early R.E.M., Gram Parsons, The Byrds

Top tracks: "All Arise," "Down by the River," "Dear Avery"

Last time we heard from The Decemberists, it was on a sweeping, bombastic rock opera called Hazards of Love. On The King is Dead, they're scaling back, but not moving backward. This one's an exercise in pared-down economy, in songs that favor intimacy and warm, simple charms over pomp and grandiosity. The touchstones are Gram Parsons country-rock and R.E.M.'s folk-tinted jangle, and the songs are all modest vignettes. The key is the ease and grace with which they're delivered, where the war songs don't come out of anger but of compassion for a lost child ("Dear Avery"), and where a song about carrying one another's earthly burdens ("Don't Carry it All") is turned into something sublime by Gillian Welch's heavenly harmonies.

The King is Dead
Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
Average Rating
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Release Date
January 1, 2010
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