hey folks! we’re back with another review From the Vault, continuing the discography review of The Decemberists! this series of reviews covers the band’s whole discography, from 2003’s 5 Songs EP all the way to 2018’s Travelling On! this review was originally written in September 2021.

aight so first off, this record, The King Is Dead threw me for such a loop the first time that i had to go look into some of how it got made. found on wikipedia that Colin Meloy said this in an interview with the Guardian just before the record came out –

“If there’s anything academic about this record, or me trying to force myself in a direction, it was realising that the last three records were really influenced by the British folk revival […] this whole world that I was discovering, that I was poring over, learning inside-out. It was a wanting to get away from that. And looking back into more American traditions, reconnecting with more American music.”

and uh… yeah i see that.

Carry It All’s real nice! a nice rousing intro to the record. i mentioned to my spouse while listening to this that there’s quite a bit of “conventional Decemberists” bleeding in throughout the record, and i feel like it’s appropriate that a majority of it is frontloaded, to kind of help ease in the sound change. Calamity Song, esp around the “oooooh” bits, has some real like, late 70s folk vibes, haha. plus after so many personal disaster songs who doesn’t love a track about a nuclear wasteland? i’m really not that big into Rise to Me. nothing wrong with it just feels a little too meander-y for me. Rox in the Box is p chill, gotta love a folk song about labor (esp mining) yknow? January Hymn is very nice and reflective. Down By the Water was one of the most popular tracks off the record, and for damn good reason. This one feels like, probably the most solid synthesis of what they were trying to do here with what you normally expect from them (i could see an argument for the hymns taking that spot, but i dunno). not gonna lie tho the transition into All Arise! is EXTREMELY disorienting, haha. this was the strongest “wait what” reaction i had the whole record. and i don’t think All Arise is bad! i like the mix of the fiddle and piano here, it’s a good sound. but there had to be a better way to do that, haha. June Hymns’ nice too – i like the paired Hymns, and that they fit fairly well together but get the space that they do. i really like the mood being built in the verses of Why We Fight, but the chorus feels… really generic? like really plain. Dear Avery’s a nice sweet little closing track, but i don’t have a ton of strong feelings about it.

faves – Calamity Song, Rox in the Box, Down By the Water, All Arise!
dislikes –

alright that’s a record huh. yknow i absolutely respect the push into such brand new territory, that’s some good shit. and i really did like their take on folky country! i’ve been picking up bits and pieces of this kinda sound over the last few records, some twang here and there, so i really did enjoy them kinda just confronting it head on. felt this one was sequenced quite well, with the one exception that STILL throws me for a loop. i dunno! i just thought this was a pretty good one.

The King is Dead – 7/10

next in the discography is the kind of B-sides EP for this record, Long Live the King.

first: 5 Songs EP | previous: The Hazards of Love | next: Long Live the King

all my reviews for The Decemberists