The Decemberists Live ‘Long’

Courtesy of Capitol Records

The Decemberists’ latest EP, “Long Live the King,” is a solid record founded on excellent musical composition and telling folk lyrics. Although these Portland-native indie rockers have been around for nearly a decade, they are still relatively unknown despite the success of 2011’s “The King Is Dead” and their noticeable performances at both Coachella and Outside Lands music festivals.

I recommend listening to “The King Is Dead” due to the fact this new EP is a collection of songs that were recorded during the production of that album but were omitted in the final cuts. In other words, “Long Live the King” is designed to be a set of extras that hint at a change of direction in the band’s musical career as well as a continuation of “The King Is Dead.”

This is due to the fact that the band will be taking a hiatus from touring for at least a year to allow them to rest and write new material. Fortunately, they left us with an exceptional collection of songs that will satisfy during their absence.

The record begins with a short track, titled “E. Watson,” which features mourning folk lyrics and guitars to tell the story of a burial. This track hints that the EP will continue a traditional indie folk sound, but quickly changes to an edgier tone with “Foregone.” Here, the Decemberists’ talent begins to shine, as they take the listener away from a calm tone into a dynamic journey of musicality and storytelling. “Foregone” transitions into a blend of beautifully crafted folk lyrics with harmonic rock riffs to create an atmosphere for the story to fall in.

This aspect of the band puts them on a higher level than your average folk band. The feeling continues into “Burying Davy.” Although not a single, it almost acts as one. The song builds up in the mood created in the two previous songs and embellishes the lyrics with a defined setting. The repeating guitar chords and mellow drumming act like backdrop for the story to fall into place. Once again, we are told another story of a burial –– it seems that everyone in this town is slowly dying, and that atmosphere is created exceptionally well with the instrumentation.

“I4U & U4Me” features the strongest vocals provided by lead singer Colin Meloy. His vocal work does a remarkable job expressing each of the lyrics to the point where it puts the focus on him more than anything else on the track. This song may also be the most indie rock in terms of instrumentation, as it keeps to the acoustic combination of guitar, bass and steel drum.

“Row Jimmy” ends up being the weakest track on the EP due to its lengthy and repetitive chord progression. The song is a cover of a Grateful Dead song, but it feels dragged and sluggish compared to other tracks.

Although the record seems to fall into a bit of a drag in “Row Jimmy,” it recovers and finishes very nicely with “Sonnet.” This track, a short but sweet song commemorating Italian poet and philosopher Dante Alighieri, features the band’s best dynamic work, going from soft to loud in a matter of seconds. It acts as a proper finish to a delightfully composed record, but also acts as a realization of the album’s short duration. At just over 25 minutes in length, the listener is left with a desire to hear more. Unfortunately for us, that won’t be happening any time soon.

“Long Live the King” may not be a breakthrough record for the band before they enter a hiatus, but it certainly is a strong set of proper indie rock songs. With meaningful folk-style lyrics and musical composition that creates magnificent atmospheres for stories to embellish on, this record will not disappoint fans of the genre and will give those who are curious about indie music a proper example of what the genre is all about. Fans of Arcade Fire, Mumford and Sons or The Smiths will definitely appreciate The Decemberists’ “Long Live the King” as a short but sweet ride of magnificent music.

Rating: 4 out of 5