The Decemberists: The King Is Dead

​If you're like The Decemberists lead singer Colin Meloy, then you enjoy folk-tinged albums rooted in verbosity and literary symbolism. Thank god, then, that for their sixth album, Meloy and his merry cohorts are staying true to what they do best. The King Is Dead lacks a concept -- unlike the band's previous album The Hazards Of Love -- but all sings point to that absence being a good thing. 

Recorded in a barn on Pendarvis Farm -- a few miles southeast of Portland, Oregon -- The King Is Dead has a decidedly rural feel. Meloy's lyricism is as grandiose as ever, but that's become a major appeal for the band throughout their existence. The R.E.M. influence on the album is as alive as ever, and Gillian Welch's guest vocals on several songs help brilliantly propel The King Is Dead into the early discussion among some of the year's best.

What the critics are saying:

Spin: Ten crisp roots-rock tunes in a mere 40 minutes, The King Is Dead finds the Decemberists in serious course-correction mode -- which is a relief, if also kind of sad. Hazards sorta sucked, it's true, but you had to admire the band's chutzpah

Rolling Stone: But more than ever, his songs savor straightforward pleasures. On "June Hymn," the album's most gorgeous track, a tremulous Meloy rhymes "bloom," "boom," "maroon" and "living room" over strummed guitar like a crushed-out poetry student.

Pitchfork: For all its rural pedigrees, The King Is Dead is still a clean and meticulously crafted album; the production is smooth and the performances are unnervingly error-free.

BBC Music: Despite, bizarrely, being titled like a riposte to The Smiths, The King Is Dead - which was recorded in a remote barn for maximum country flavour - is their Americana record, where the sun dapples the water and you can't move but hit your Stetson on a twanging acoustic guitar.

The King Is Dead is out now via Capitol.

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