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OK addendum to The King is Dead
on 5 November 2011
This EP is a collection of the best songs recorded for "The King is Dead" sessions not to make the cut for the main album. No surprise then that the mood is similar to that of the album : southern folk rock as opposed to the grandiose rock opera style of previous album The Hazards of Love.
The EP opens with the lovely E.Watson notable for stunning backing vocals from fellow Portlander Laura Veirs whose partner, Tucker Martine has produced the last few Decemberists albums. Veirs spot-on harmonies lift this song from a fairly bog standard acoustic strummer to something of great beauty that could easily have slotted into the original album. Similarly, Foregone's southern rock feel with Chris Funk's pedal steel well to the fore was unlucky to have remained on the cutting room floor when songs like "All Arise!" made it onto the album.
Burying Davy is a slower, darker number. An ominous lament with a feel not dissimilar to that of "Shankhill Butchers" from "The Crane Wife". "I4U & U4ME" makes no bones of the fact that it is a home demo. Better quality than the average home demo certainly but the difference in sound quality is apparent. The song is pleasant enough but has a throwaway quality that suggests that it was the right decision not to pursue this one further during the album sessions. "Row Jimmy" is not a great song - slow southern rock in style but without the songwriting direction and clarity we normally associate with Colin Meloy. Some nice slide guitar from Chris Funk and backing vocals from Jenny Conlee fail to redeem this one which, at 6 minutes outstays its welcome by at least 4 !
Sadly, the closing track "Sonnet" doesn't improve things much - a directionless song augmented by some boozy horns clearly designed to give it a kind of New Orleans funeral march feel but at least at under 3 minutes we don't have to endure too much of this one.
The King is Dead was a fantastic album : a real contender for album of the year but sadly, this EP doesn't do much to add to the legacy of the recording sessions that created it. For Decemberists fans and completists it is certainly worth buying for the first three tracks alone with E.Watson and Foregone being the undoubted highlights. Don't expect a mini version of The King is Dead though as this is a pale imitation whose release not too long before Christmas (and overpriced for an EP of cast-offs in my opinion) smacks of commercialism.