February 6, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 38°F


New style softens sound

The Decemberists are known for their dramatic ballads and largely complex progressive-rock songs, but the band’s newest release, “The King Is Dead,” goes in a simpler direction.

From the first harmonica wail and guitar strum in the opener, listeners will immediately note the album’s musical direction. While the first tracks alternate between influences of folk and country rock, the band finds its groove by “Rox in the Box,” an upbeat song with acoustic strums, Celtic fiddle and a sing-along chorus. Another standout, “Down By The Water,” features guest vocalist Gillian Welch, who complements lead singer Colin Meloy perfectly.

This stylistic shift might catch veteran listeners off guard because the progressive rock instrumentation of previous albums is completely gone, and the band sounds as if it has lost energy by the last track. While “The King Is Dead” takes a different direction, it also shows that it can successfully branch out to different genres.