If you’ve found yourself lamenting the lack of harmonicas in your life this January, The King Is Dead has arrived just in time. After the mixed response The Decemberists received for their last album, The Hazards of Love, a foray into prog-rock-folk, the five-piece have returned to their folky roots. The music undulates like the Oregon countryside in which it was written, from serene songs such as ‘Rise to Me’ which conjures up thoughts of damp mountain air and ancient trees, to rousing accounts of miners in early 20th Century Montana on ‘Rox In The Box’, which has everything a good folk song should: a sense of history, a catchy hook and a beat so infectious it can make even the most comotose of drunks at the bar twitch. Clear REM influences on songs such as ‘Down By The Water’ weave throughout the album, binding the hymn with the jig, whilst country singer Gillian Welch adds just enough American authenticity to steer the band away from the Anglophile slant that featured on previous records such as Picaresque, suggesting that The Decemberists may finally have found their niche.
-from issue 233 (24/1/11) of Epigram. You can read the rest of the Music section here.