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The King is Dead – Double Post Wednesday!

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2011 by ryepdx

I bought The King is Dead last night, in case you haven’t read my previous post yet, and decided it would be fun to have a sort of online listening party. Basically I listened to the album and wrote out my reactions to each of the tracks as I listened. I’m going to try to get other people to do this too, so if you’ve procured a copy of The King is Dead, feel free to join the listening party and post something in the comments once you’re done!

And here we go…

1. Don’t Carry It All – Strong, folksy beginning to the album. Loved the sound of the harmonica right at the beginning of the song. Caught my ear right off the bat. Soulful and quite optimistic for the Decemberists. Great song. Loved the recurrent 16th notes on the fiddle.

2. Calamity Song – Upbeat sound, dark lyrics. This is the Decemberists I know. Except the beat is a bit faster than most of the stuff I remember from Crane Wife. So far this is shaping up to be a rather folky album. (Okay, so that’s like saying “Keith Urban’s last album was pretty country,” but so far I’m really getting a pop/bluegrass feel I didn’t get from Crane Wife. Somehow that translates to “folky” in my lexicon.)

3. Rise to Me – Ah, HERE is the down-tempo song. Is this going to go on for the rest of the album? I hope not. I was liking the faster stuff. Wait, is that a lap steel guitar? Oh NOES! That bluegrass feeling is growing… AH! But they finish up with that harmonica. Not enough to make up for the lap steel guitar, I’m afraid, but I like it nonetheless.

4. Rox in the Box – Dark sound, dark lyrics. Bluegrass guitar opening, a bluegrass bassline, but this is good stuff. In comes the accordion, in come the fiddles, in comes the banjo. The fiddle/accordion/banjo solo is awesome. Got a bit of a nautical/Irish feel from this. Like something a hipster pirate might sing.

5. January Hymn – Vocal oohs with a fingerpicked guitar lead us in to this one. I like it so far. A lot cleaner of a sound than the rest of the album so far. Like freshly fallen snow, right? πŸ˜€
And in comes the shimmery guitar, which I suspect is a lap steel, but it doesn’t sound like a lap steel, so that’s alright. That clean, expansive “freshly fallen snow” feel hasn’t broken yet, and I love it. Somehow they’ve managed to fit in an organ, an shaker, a shimmery guitar, a guitar, and vocals into all this space though. Must be magic.

6. Down by the Water – Starts with a harmonica. Strong song. Dark. I remember this song playing at Music Millenium when I went to get the CD. The fact that I recognize it is a testament to its peculiar power. Peculiar because it has nothing that’s obviously a hook, yet it still stuck with me. On closer examination I realize that the “down by the water” melody gets sung in both the verse and the chorus, and the harmonica riff is, I realize now, definitely a hook. Those tricksy Decemberists. Oh! Accordion and harmonica duet! I love this song. It reminds me of the music I used to listen to in the 90s, with all its minor sensibilities.

7. All Arise! – Okay, this is high bluegrass territory. Sorta’. I guess that electric guitar isn’t strictly bluegrass, but it’s clean so I’m still calling this bluegrass. The thing starts with a stereotypical country/bluegrass fiddle riff, for crying out loud. This is unabashedly a country song. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Not a bad song, I guess, but I still don’t know how I feel about this…

8. June Hymn – Writing this on the tailend of All Arise because I’m done listening to that song. Will this be warm and busy, like most Junes, just as January Hymn was cold and clean? Hmm… harmonica and acoustic guitar. That’s kinda’ warm. This is definitely a June night, though the lyrics (“hanging clothing on the line”) talk about day. “You were waking, day was breaking, a panopoly of song. And summer comes to Springville hill.” Yummy. I like these lyrics. I’ll probably like all the lyrics on this CD once I get a chance to listen more carefully. The sound is definitely warm, though still quiet. Harmonica solo! Why do I like harmonicas and accordions so much? Hmm. Clearly there is something wrong with me. πŸ˜‰

9. This is Why We Fight – Harmonica intro, dark bass and guitar underneath. A very dark, bassy sound on this track. Oh! I’ve heard this song before! Well, there goes the “this is my first time hearing these songs” element of this listening party. Oh well. Good song! Strong, foreboding, dark. Reminds me of something from the 90s, again. There’s definitely a song or a musician I’m put in mind of, but I can’t quite name who or what. Good use of bluegrass instruments to make a sound that is most definitely not bluegrass. Guitar solo! First one on this entire CD.
Oh… okay, this is reminding me of Dc Talk, from my Christian days, with the harmonica putting me in mind of the vocals on Zombie by the Cranberries. Wow, that’s random.

Started filling in entry 10. This ends with a decidedly bluegrass, grainy recording of someone singing with a banjo. I love that sort of thing. Definitely something I remember from the 90s. Definitely something Dc Talk did at least once. So maybe it wasn’t all that random.

10. Dear Avery – Hmm… sounds like it’s going to get loud and tasty in a second. Vocals and guitar only, with some well-placed accidentals in the guitar part. Nope, no explosion, just the addition of another vocalist for the chorus. In comes the electric piano, the unobtrusive lap steel, the bass, and shaker with the second verse, but they’re timid entrances. Drums finally come in at the second chorus. Oh! More vocals! I’m liking the sound that gives it. Aw, now they’re gone. Sad panda. Oh! And now they’re back! Yay. Though that was a tasty bassline back there. Wait, is this a lap steel solo! Oh NOES! What is it about lap steels? Okay, they can be good for texture when they are unobtrusive, but as solo instruments… they sound like cats singing.

Though I guess this isn’t bad. Curse you, Decemberists, turning me on to lap steel guitars! Oh well. Oh hey, it’s over.

Good album. I like. πŸ™‚

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