As the end of the year is approaching, I have actually started to think of what my top five albums of this past year are. I have a few that I think I would personally put up as number one, but I haven’t really settled on it just yet. Plus, there is still a little bit of time for me to discover a few more entries. One album that has been on repeat throughout most of this year is The Decemberists – “The King is Dead”. I got this album before I actually started this site, so I never really reviewed it. However, perhaps more than any other Decemberists album, I have really enjoyed their full-length release this year. Therefore, when I saw that they had released an accompanying EP, I knew I had to pick it up.
“Long Live the King” is basically the b-side collection of songs that didn’t make it onto the actual album, as well as, one cover from the Grateful Dead. This EP follows a similar feel to the countryesque sound the band achieved on their full-length. However, it gives an interesting look into what The King is Dead could have sounded like.
The Decemberists are by no means newcomers to the world. They have been churning out a plethora of different albums since 2000, and they have become one of the bigger names in the “underground” music scene. You have to put that term in quotes when a band signs and releases three albums on Capitol records.
Lead singer, Colin Meloy, is probably one of the more interesting frontmen in the music scene now-a-days. Having attended the University of Oregon and a creative writing program in Montana, his lyrics and writing are much more complex and interesting than some other indie artists. Their album, “The Hazards of Love”, is a concept album that would have been rather difficult for many other artists to pen. Also, Meloy loves to include references to literature throughout his lyrics.
The first song on this EP, “E.Watson”, is just that. It is a musical retelling of this award winning novel. Although never having read the novel, the song does a good job of actually making it sound fairly interesting. The retelling of Edgar Watson has a very sad tone to it throughout. In the chorus Meloy sings out, “Lord bring down the flood / Wash away the blood / Drown these Everglades / Put us in our place / We laid Edgar Watson in his grave / We laid him in his grave”. This of course doesn’t seem to sing of happier times. However, it does seem to suggest that Watson may have not died an unjust death. Later Meloy tells us how he was buried facedown for a better look into hell. It’s just this type of lyrical story telling that I enjoy. Although not his own story, just his song makes me interested in reading the book. The song probably would have been awkward on the entire album, but really fits nicely on this album.
Another song that has a similar theme and tone is “Burying Davy”. Although not my favorite song on the album, it is a good song in general. It has a similar spooky and low-key tone to it at the beginning; however, it works its way into a much more frenzied atmosphere throughout the song. It is interesting to see how this death seems to be in stark contrast to the other song about someone dying on the album. Here Meloy sings for those to “….bring out your weeping weeds…”. Perhaps suggesting that this is a much sadder death. E.Watson manages to keep a similar musical tone throughout the entirety of the song, but I like how this one diversifies the atmosphere a lot more.
“Foregone” has a much more traditional country tune to it, and most likely, would have actually fit a little nicer onto the actual album this follows up. Meloy’s voice is definitely the feature here, but the guitars are far more twangy and country sounding. Thankfully, this one seems to revolve around a topic that is slightly different from the death topic of the other two songs. The progression of the song follows a similar one to that of those found on the full-length. It is definitely one of the more enjoyable songs on the album for me.
Both “Sonnet” and “Row Jimmy” are my least favorite on this album. To me, “Sonnet” just never really goes anywhere. I don’t like the sound of the intro to it. In my mind, it is one of Meloy’s weaker performances, and the music is fairly annoying. I do like how the horns come in towards the end, but the entire song just eventually fades out. It definitely has a feeling of a demo song. “Row Jimmy” is a cover song from The Grateful Dead. Maybe it’s because I’m not a Grateful Dead fan, but I just find the progression here really slow and annoying. I think that it could be more interesting if the song was sped up or something; however, I haven’t heard the original, so I’m not really the authority here.
The only other song on the album, “I 4 U & U 4 Me”, is listed as a demo song. It is most definitely the most upbeat song on the entire album, and I think would have fit nicely on the full-length. Although it does seem to be the most joyful song on this EP, I find it the most enjoyable. It could be because it has such a different feel from the rest of them, but I like the hoedown quality of it as well.
Ultimately this album definitely plays second fiddle to the full-length album; however, that isn’t to say it doesn’t have it’s highlights. I guess finding 4 out of 6 songs good isn’t great odds, but I think it’s still a pretty good album. I don’t mind skipping a few songs here and there. Most fans of the band will probably still enjoy this release, but if for some reason you haven’t checked them out, pick up their release “The King is Dead” before check this one out.
Teacher Grade: B-
Video is from The King is Dead and not Long Live the King