50 Best Albums of 2011

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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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