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The Tartan

The Decemberists preserve Americana in modern music

The King is Dead is The Decemberists first no. 1 charting album in the United States.

Jordan Kauffman

jmkauffman@radford.edu

Americana is certainly an acquired taste, especially when you’re not into the ‘new-folk-wave’ movement; you hipster, you.  But listen, The Decemberists take everything bad and annoying about Americana and flip it upside-down. The Decemberists don’t write boring songs; no one’s truly sure if they can.

The Decemberists can turn an eight minute long blues, Hammond-organ-driven song into an epic. Their brand of Americana (similar to country, but don’t tell people that) is upbeat and even based on concepts, like you would see in a Coheed and Cambria album.

The Decemberists have grown from true and tried small-time indie band to bigger than that flame you call Mumford and Sons. The guys, and gal, in this band are transcendent gargantuan beasts, able to swiftly change genres at the drop of a hat. They do it a lot too.  Their most recent LP was a bit of backward step, as they pigeonholed themselves into a single genre, attempting to become more popular.

Frankly, they did it well and the album went off without a hitch.  On their latest release, Long Live the King, the crew sticks to their Americana guns and delivers a small, but wonderful collection of outtakes and covers.

To die-hard fans, The Decemberists can do no wrong, which of course you’ll find with any die-hard fan. The Decemberists have lost some of the edge they first had when they came slowly shuffling on to the music scene.

Their progressive approach to music was refreshing and brilliant.  They breathed life into tired processions of Americana and arguably contributed to the regeneration of the modern folk movement.

While maintaining their signature sound, the band garnered a massive fan base and took the world by storm.  Then they released The Hazards of Love, a conceptual album about a beast that falls in love with a woman and the ensuing drama.

The Decemberists successfully wrote an Americana-Rock opera, which made indie kids rabid for them.  Since their peak at Hazards of Love, The Decemberists have matured and become comfortable with themselves making Long Live the King an easy listen and digest.

The band’s lineup consists of five members, with an ever-talented multi-instrumentalist who make their live shows infectious and astonishing. The band frequently sells out dates on their summer tours due to their wide array of music genres they play as well as a wealth of material.

Colin Meloy, the singer and rhythm guitarist, is the brains behind the outfit, writing most of the lyrics and creating the concepts.  There’s Nate Query, the bassist, John Moen, the drummer, and Chris Funk, the lead guitarist.  Last, but certainly not least, is Jenny Conlee: the focal point of the band.

She plays several instruments on the albums, as well as live; recreating the studio tracks to a near-perfect sound live. The chemistry between the members as well as the things they create propels them further into the Hall of Fame of Americana (if there was one…).

Long Live the King consists of four outtakes, or B-Sides, from their most recent LP The King is Dead.  The songs belong with the album, and as always, it makes you wonder why they weren’t on the album in the first place. “Foregone” and “E. Watson” are country-like tracks that would fool any untrained listener.

Upbeat and annoyingly-happy, “I4U & U4ME” is definitely a step outside of the band’s circle of influences; it didn’t sound like them at first. The band closes out the EP with a Jerry Garcia tune, “Row Jimmy,” a wonderful rendition of the father of jam music’s song, and “Sonnet,” a piece composed by the Dante Alighieri himself. The most disappointing thing about this EP is the fact that The Decemberists are going on a multi-year hiatus after its release.

The band has become such a staple in summer lineups that it will be weird not to see them for a while, but you can’t blame the band that’s worked so hard to give the listener quality tracks.

Overall, Long Live the King is a solid effort and a must have for any fan, as well as a great starter listen for anyone attempting to delve into the constantly growing modern-folk scene.

While the CD may not impress as much as their older albums, it’s perfect for watching the leaves fall on campus as you procrastinate. You won’t be disappointed either way because The Decemberists fill a void in your library that can’t be filled by anyone or anything else.

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