Feature

The Decemberists: The King Is Dead

The Decemberists' sixth album was the nation’s No. 1–selling album last week.

(Capitol)

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Indie rock’s over­achievers have found success by curtailing their ambitions, said Noel Murray in the A.V. Club. On their sixth album, the Decemberists steer away from the complicated arrangements and “baroque history lessons” of 2009’s The Hazards of Love, and return to their folk roots. The King Is Dead, the nation’s No. 1–selling album last week, is a panoply of rustic Americana framed by crisp, lean layers of acoustic guitar, pedal steel, and harmonica. It’s a “revelation” to see what front man Colin Meloy can accomplish when he keeps his songs “compact” and simple, said Will Hermes in Rolling Stone. The rollicking “Calamity Song,” which features R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, sounds lifted from that band’s Murmur. Gillian Welch also appears, “buoying” much of the album with close harmonies. From the jangly “Down by the Water” to the sweet ache of “June Hymn,” “what’s remarkable is how much richness and beauty” the Portland, Ore., band has packed into this succinct disc.

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