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The King Is Dead CD+DVD, Special Edition

46 customer reviews

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Amazon's The Decemberists Store


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Life as a musician means continual evolution. Over the course of a career, any band worth paying attention to will pursue a sound, a direction, until it triggers a different idea and they’re chasing some other distant dream. With their sixth album, The King Is Dead, The Decemberists illustrate the power that comes from this kind of creative call-and-response.
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The King Is Dead + What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World + Crane Wife
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Product details

  • Audio CD (17 Jan. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: CD+DVD, Special Edition
  • Label: Rough Trade Records
  • ASIN: B004EGXFD0
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,415 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Don't Carry It All
2. Calamity Song
3. Rise to Me
4. Rox in the Box
5. January Hymn
6. Down By the Water
7. All Arise!
8. June Hymn
9. This Is Why We Fight
10. Dear Avery
Disc: 2
1. Pendarvia

Product Description

Product Description

CD + Pendarvia DVD - a 30 minute short film by Aaron Rose, documenting the making of the album.
Deluxe package with 10 page booklet.

BBC Review

The last time we heard from The Decemberists, on 2009’s The Hazards of Love, they were lost in the dense forest of a prog-inflected, 17-track experimental concept album. A mythic folk-rock opera of vaudevillian villains, fairies and doomed earthly lovers that was inspired by Anne Briggs’ 1963 a cappella folk EP, it saw the band’s smart, savvy songwriting overdressed as gothic folly. Making it "took a lot out of" singer Colin Meloy – and listening to it, many fans felt the same way.

Fortunately, rather than releasing an even more grandiose, darkly dramatic follow-up, they’ve chipped off the embellishments, reined in the pomp and walked towards the light. The bookish Portland five-piece started life as indie-mongers with a penchant for English folk, and their sixth album recaptures their youth, only now they’ve shifted their allegiance back over the pond. 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.

Or, in this case, on an authenticity-boosting guest musician – roots luminary Gillian Welch lends her vocals to several tracks, and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck strums on three. But even without their help, this album would have been convincing. It is, simply, a thing of beauty, its hook quotient the highest of The Decemberists’ discography. The scaled-down (for them – these things are relative) arrangements ebb and flow, as Neil Young-ian harmonica and mandolin anthems (Don’t Carry It All) and sing-along gypsy stomps (Rox in the Box) are hushed by delicate, gorgeously melodic meditations with simple guitar accompaniment (January Hymn). The lyrics, appropriately, aren’t as abstruse as usual, though they’ll still keep sales of the OED healthy.

The only downside – apart from the lumbering plodder Rise to Me, which has a hay-chewing instrumental – is that some of Meloy’s acknowledged inspiration arrives too directly from its source. After listening to Reckoning, he set out to write an homage to R.E.M. and seems to have succeeded a little too well. Still, at least Buck isn’t likely to sue. 

--Alix Buscovic

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Red on Black TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Jan. 2011
Format: Audio CD
"The King is Dead" the new and sixth album by Portland's finest "The Decemberists" sees Colin Meloy and chums return with an album of much more straightforward songs than their previous theatrical concept outing "The Hazards of Love". The consequence for this reviewer is unadulterated pleasure since while Hazards was an impressive piece of work it is the Decemberists of the "Picaresque" era which really starts the pulses racing. Having listened to this album for two weeks streaming on NPR you will find a hugely accessible and accomplished set full of crisp Americana based songs with enough hooks to catch mackerel as evidenced by the thumping opener "Don't carry it all". In the background throughout "TKID" you will also detect the influence of two master musicians namely the jangle guitar miester Peter Buck from REM and one of gods representatives on earth, Gillian Welch the great Appalachian style country singer who sings on seven of the ten tracks.

Listen to the huge alt country ballad "Rise to me" or the gentling rolling "All arise" full of guitars, fiddle, accordion, harmonica and pedal steel to detect Welch's direct influence and it is a force for good. Not that this greater simplicity has blunted Meloy's wordy gymnastics. Anyone who can rhyme "enzymes" with "fault line" deserves a pat on the back as does the use of REM style "Reckoning" era motifs in the brilliant "Calamity song". The rollicking "Rox in the box" sounds like a nod to Mike Scott and his folk fest "Room to roam" and for good measure the Decemberists throw in a snatch of the folk standard "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" to add spice. Meloy's acoustic guitar picked ballads are always lovely and sumptuous and "January Hymn" is one of his finest yet and will one day figure on the "Best of the Decemberists".
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By C. McArdle on 29 Jan. 2011
Format: Audio CD
For 'The King Is Dead', it seems that The Decemberists have gone backwards to go forwards. This album echoes the sound of their earlier albums, and not 2009's 'The Hazards of Love', an album that polarized both fans and critics. As you will see across many reviews, this album has a simpler sound, though that certainly isn't a criticism. The majority of the songs clock in at around 3 minutes and immediately hit the mark upon your first listen. Some songs are sombre, and some simply put a smile on your face, it accompanies every type of emotion. From the beautiful melodies to the sometimes soul-searching lyrics, this is an album that you won't regret buying, and one that you'll find yourself listening to for quite some time!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. Milton VINE VOICE on 26 Jan. 2011
Format: Audio CD
2009's `The Hazards Of Love' saw something of a culmination for The Decemberists, of albums so steeped in invention and ingenuity that they bordered on becoming intimidating to a casual listener. But their latest release sees a bold departure from the conceptual thought that defined previous works - embracing said casual listener, `The King Is Dead' is The Decemberists in their most simple, most endearing form.

But in doing the good deed and stepping aside from writing albums as complex as their past two (`The Crane Wife' builds upon a tale from Japanese folklore, whilst `The Hazards Of Love', spanning an entire hour, was self-described as a rock opera), by simplifying everything, they've taken the risk of alienating an adoring and loyal fan base hanging on Colin Meloy's every move. It is essentially a no-win situation. Except from the fact that in `The King Is Dead', we're given songs so charming and immediate that you can forgive the five-piece for settling down for the first time in their ten-year tenure as one of the more complex and intriguing bands around.

`The King Is Dead' pays a direct and noticeable homage to R.E.M and in particular their second album, 1984's `Reckoning'. Having listened to the record, Meloy took it upon himself to re-ignite that flame and incorporate R.E.M's own style of song-writing into his band's work. To complete this alter-ego, he hired guitarist Peter Buck to assist in making something wholesome and true to the plan.

And from `Calamity Song's triumphant chorus onwards, it begins to dawn on you just how very stark R.E.M's influence is.
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Format: Audio CD
With their previous record, the highly theatrical, experimental, Hazards of Love, The Decemberists had reached the peak of their storytelling powers, but the record itself was somewhat lacking musically in comparison to their earlier successes. Yet with this album, the band have musically returned to a softer sound reminiscnt of the older records, but lyrically this album does lack somewhat. All the same, it is a great listen, particularly if your taking a walk through the country on a hot summer day.

The opening, summer anthem, Don't Carry It All is a great way to start the track, and the following Calamity Song, is another great number. The record takes a softer turn with Rise To Me, which is a stunning number which really grows on you with time. It is followed by the catchy, very country-sounding, Rox In The Box, one of the best tracks on the record.

January Hymn is a song I've never had a liking for. The music and Meloy's voice is dull, and the lyrics are pretty mediocre too, but the album is saved by the harmonica blazing single, Down By The Water. It is such a shame that such a great song is stuck between January Hymn and then All Arise! probably the worst song I have heard from the band, (but there aren't many mind).

We then have three strong closing tracks. June Hymn, far superior to January Hymn, another anthem, This Is Why We Fight and a quietly humble ending in Dear Avery.

I think that this record is a step up from The Hazards of Love, because it is a mellow record that is much easier to listen to and contains a great mixture of country ballads, storming anthems and catchy poppy numbers. It is also probably their most commercial effort, which is by no means a bad thing, although to reach the great hieghts of the Picaresque Era, The Decemberists really need to return to their origional sound and refine it, something that a band of their capabilities is easily capable of.
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