The King Is Dead
After a decade-long foray into British-inspired folk-rock, The Decemberists now proclaim The King Is Dead. The Portland-based group’s sixth studio album signals a sea change and offers more of an Americana bent — with the mostly delicate, swaying, and passionate compositions adorned with themes of transition and rebirth. This can be immediately heard on the opening track, “Don’t Carry It All,” featuring harmonica, methodical rhythm guitar, and light strings. Things get a bit alt-country on the Peter Buck–assisted “Calamity Song” — in fact, the R.E.M. member appears on several songs, as does chanteuse Gillian Welch. That tune about returning home and falling into an angel's arms (“Calamity Song”) cohesively transitions into “Rise to Me,” an acoustic composition brushed with mixed-gender harmonies, harmonica, and pedal-steel guitar. There’s a markedly simple nature to The King Is Dead, a testament to The Decemberists' way of making everything sound so pleasant and breezy.