The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
There’s something about The Decemberists’ whimsical pseudo-folk balladry that you really want to hate, but try hard as you may it seems the human brain is somehow tuned to resonate with the prolific Portland quintet. It might be Colin Meloy’s vocals, unthreateningly pleasing to the ear; perhaps it’s their vivacious yet oddly calming melodies, or maybe it’s something infinitely more sinister. No matter what it is, The King is Dead has it by the barrowful.
Just try not singing along to Calamity Song after only half a listen, or to refrain from being swept away when This is Why We Fight’s tom-heavy intro lets loose. It can’t be done. They’ve taken the core elements of folk songs and sea shanties that gave them such a timeless quality and infused them with an oddly palatable sheen via the cunning insertion of big guitar licks (more Peter Buck than the Tommy Iommi homage that was 2009’s The Hazards of Love). It’s a simple tactic that works in spades. [David Bowes]