Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Decemberists - Long Live The King

Long Live The King was released
Nov 1, 2011 on Capitol Records.
The Decemberists are one of the Northwest's indie-rock success stories, though not to the degree or with the expeditiousness of Death Cab for Cutie. Unlike their contemporary, The Decemberists have managed to make an entire career's worth of work that finds itself unflinchingly literate, overwhelmingly emotional, and, ultimately, infinitely re-listenable. That all combines to make the release of "Long Live The King" a somewhat bittersweet EP. Capping off the band's nine year career thusfar before a multi-year hiatus and coming on the heels of the band's most commercially successful album, "The King is Dead," the EP stands as a testament to the creative consciousness of the band.

Composed of castaways and cut-outs from "The King is Dead," the EP keeps with the Americana-tinged direction the band found itself heading in. While I will say it was somewhat disheartening at first, to see The Decemberists move from their Victorian dramatics to the traditional American sound of their previous album, I see it now less as a departure and more of an evolution. If they have actually evolved into a more perfect version of themselves, then the six tracks offered on "Long Live the King" are the bones of the ground sloths.

From a sturdy cover of the Grateful Dead's classic "Row Jimmy" to "Burying Davy," a song reminiscent of the inchoate Decemberists bursting into a section of "The Island," the band has assembled an impressive collection of songs. The EP blasts off with "E. Watson," a fisherman's lament played largely solo acoustic, brought alive by rich vocal harmonies that add depth and astounding emotion, while the follow up track, "Foregone" finds the Decemberists revisiting the slide guitar and overt country-esque overtones that contributed to the success of the source sessions.

These songs are followed by the aforementioned "Burying Davy" and "Row Jimmy," which are handled in a fashion vaguely reminiscent of the band's early works. The album itself closes on "Sonnet,"  whose lyrics are taken from Dante Alighieri's 110th Sonnet, named only "Guido, i'vorrei che tu e Lapo ed io" for the first line. From the sprightly, rhythmic recitation of the sonnet over sparse instrumentation leaps, at the finale, a burst of horns that add a sort of bow to the collection of songs.

While this doesn't tread new territory for the band, it's not supposed to. As the remnants from "The King Is Dead," sessions, these songs shine new light on the band's sonic evolution, and show them growing into this new skin they've found themselves in. As the ultimate record of this portion of their career, it would fall flat, as there is no one album that can accurately capture the Decemberists' transformations. It does, however, stand as a testament to their infinite adaptability and uncommon skill as songwriters, musicians and personalities. You can stream the album on Spotify, purchase it via Amazon or from the band themselves.

Rating: 9.5/10

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