50 Best Albums of 2011

The Decemberists, 'The King Is Dead'

7. The Decemberists, 'The King Is Dead'

The Decemberists' first Number One album was their easiest to love at first spin, a smart step back from the ornate-epic reach of 2009's The Hazards of Love. Singer-songwriter Colin Meloy packs his storytelling eccentricities into popsong packages of verse, hook and country-Smiths jangle, arranged with the introspective simplicity of Neil Young's Harvest. It is hard to believe that Meloy was already planning a long sabbatical before this album was made. The earthy texture and economic buoyancy of "Calamity Song" and "Down by the Water" ensure that he – and his band – will be missed.

Will Hermes' Original Review: The Decemberists' 'The King Is Dead'
Photos: The Decemberists Perform in New York City

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