The King Is Dead is the sixth studio album by The Decemberists, released on Capitol Records on January 14, 2011.[1] Described as the "most pastoral, rustic record they've ever made" by Douglas Wolk of Rolling Stone,[14] the album reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart for the week ending February 5, 2011.[15] The song "This Is Why We Fight" reached number 19 on the U.S Alternative Songs Chart, while the song "Down by the Water" also charted in the United States. In November 2011, the band released an EP of album out-takes, entitled Long Live the King.

Prior to the album's release, frontman Colin Meloy stated: "If there's anything academic about this record, or me trying to force myself in a direction, it was realising that the last three records were really influenced by the British folk revival [...] this whole world that I was discovering, that I was poring over, learning inside-out. It was a wanting to get away from that. And looking back into more American traditions, reconnecting with more American music."[16]

Contents Edit


  • 1 Background
  • 2 "Down by the Water"
  • 3 Reception
  • 4 Track listing
  • 5 Personnel
    • 5.1 The Decemberists
    • 5.2 Additional musicians
    • 5.3 Production
  • 6 Release history
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links

§Background[edit] Edit

The King Is Dead was recorded during spring 2010,[17] with most of it being made in a six-week period in a barn at an 80-acre (320,000 m2) site called Pendarvis Farm, near Portland, Oregon.[14] It has been speculated that the album title is an homage to The Smiths' 1986 album The Queen Is Dead,[18] largely due to Colin Meloy's long-touted influence from the band.[19] It was co-produced by Tucker Martine.[14] At least three of the ten songs—"Down by the Water", "Rise to Me" and "June Hymn"—were performed live in 2010.[20] Meloy has said that a primary musical influence for much of The King Is Dead is R.E.M.,[21] and three songs, "Don't Carry It All", "Calamity Song" and "Down by the Water", feature the R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck.[22] The album was released on January 18, 2011.[23] The King Is Dead has been called the "most pastoral, rustic record they've ever made" by Douglas Wolk of Rolling Stone.[14] On January 26, 2011, it became their first No. 1 album on the U.S. album chart.[24]

On November 1, 2011, the outtakes EP Long Live the King was released, collecting six songs recorded during these sessions.

§"Down by the Water"[edit] Edit

The first single, "Down by the Water", includes Peter Buck and the singer-songwriter Gillian Welch, who contribute 12-string guitar and vocal harmonies, respectively.[17] It also features accordion riffs and heavy harmonica reminiscent of Neil Young;[25] particularly the song "Heart of Gold".[26] "Down by the Water" has been compared to the music of Bruce Springsteen.[27][28] It was featured for free download on November 2, 2010, on the band's official website. Meloy has said that The King Is Dead is more straightforward and heavily influenced by R.E.M.,[29] and "Down by the Water" is a prime example.[21] Meloy said that the song "started out as more of a paean to R.E.M. than I think any of us really wanted it to be".[14]

Lyrically, "Down by the Water" is vaguely mournful.[30] It has been described as "folksy", "uptempo",[31] and "country-esque". The track was nominated for Best Rock Song at the 54th Grammy Awards, but lost to "Walk" by Foo Fighters.

§Reception[edit] Edit

This section requires expansion.(May 2014)

The King is Dead received a 77 out of 100 on Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Uncut placed the album at number 26 on its list of "Top 50 albums of 2011",[32] while Rolling Stone ranked the album the 7th best of 2011.[33]

§Track listing[edit] Edit

All songs written by Colin Meloy.

No. Title Length
1. "Don't Carry It All"   4:17
2. "Calamity Song"   3:50
3. "Rise to Me"   4:59
4. "Rox in the Box"   3:10
5. "January Hymn"   3:14
6. "Down by the Water"   3:42
7. "All Arise!"   3:10
8. "June Hymn"   3:58
9. "This Is Why We Fight"   5:30
10. "Dear Avery"   4:52

§Personnel[edit] Edit

According to the liner notes of The King Is Dead.

§The Decemberists[edit] Edit

  • Colin Meloy – vocals, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, baritone guitar, tenor guitar, harmonica, pump organ, percussion
  • Chris Funk – pedal steel, electric guitar, banjo, bouzouki
  • Jenny Conlee – piano, organ, accordion, Wurlitzer
  • Nate Query – bass guitar, cello
  • John Moen – drums, tambourine, shaker, percussion, backing vocals

§Additional musicians[edit] Edit

  • Peter Buck – mandolin on "Don't Carry It All", 12-string electric guitar on "Calamity Song", electric guitar and baritone guitar on "Down by the Water"
  • David Rawlings – backing vocals on "Don't Carry It All", "June Hymn" and "Dear Avery"
  • Gillian Welch – backing vocals on "Don't Carry It All", "Rise to Me", "Rox in the Box", "Down by the Water", "All Arise!", "June Hymn" and "Dear Avery"
  • Laura Veirs – backing vocals on "Dear Avery"
  • Annalisa Tornfelt – violin on "Don't Carry It All", "Rox in the Box" and "All Arise!"
  • Tucker Martine – tambourine on "Calamity Song"

§Production[edit] Edit

  • Produced by Tucker Martine with The Decemberists
  • Recorded and mixed by Tucker Martine
  • Mastered by Stephen Marcussen
  • Assistant engineering by Rich Hipp and Clinton Welander
  • Design by Jeri Heiden for SMOG Design, Inc.
  • Illustrations and lettering by Carson Ellis
  • Photography by Autumn de Wilde

§Release history[edit] Edit

Country Date Label Format Catalog
United States January 14, 2011 Capitol Records Vinyl LP 42727[1]
United Kingdom January 17, 2011 Rough Trade Records, Capitol Records Compact Disc RTRADCDX656[34]
United States January 18, 2011 Capitol Records 50999 9 47547 2 8[35]

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