The Decemberists, The King Is Dead – The king might be dead, but I suppose their career isn’t, since the album was number one on some chart or other. It’s been a while since I was really into the Decemberists; I still quite enjoy their first three albums, but The Crane Wife was a bit hit-or-miss, and The Hazards of Love never really clicked for me. A large part of what drew me to them in the first place was the English music hall sound that they employed in much of their earlier work, with their catchy tunes and obvious sense of humor. Even though they kept the historical backdrops and somewhat old-fashioned sound for later releases, though, I kind of think they became too serious for their own good. So is this album a return to form? I don’t know. What with the prominence of harmonica and fiddle, it comes across to me as more distinctly American folk-pop, even though Colin Meloy still sings with the British accent. Regardless, though, it’s fun to listen to, and that’s what’s really important. I think my favorites so far are “Calamity Song” and “Rox in the Box.”
BONUS REVIEW: Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under – Since leaving Roadrunner Records, Amanda has released a fair amount of stuff on the Internet, including some mini-albums. The last one was a set of Radiohead covers, which I enjoyed, but I never reviewed properly because I’m not all that familiar with the originals. Goes Down Under is a full twelve songs, recorded live in Australia, a place Amanda seems to particularly enjoy playing. Having never been there myself, I can’t say if this makes any sense to me. Anyway, there are a few collaborations and a lot of inside jokes. Song subjects include Amanda’s hatred of Vegemite, how Tasmania has the same basic shape as female pubic hair, and how her period was late while she was visiting New Zealand. I also have to say I enjoyed “Formidable Marinade,” a song Amanda performed with its writer, the low-voiced Australian singer Mikelangelo.
It contains the immortal lines, “Sodomy is not just for animals/Human flesh is not just for cannibals.” Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan, but maybe not the best place to start if you’re not familiar with Amanda’s work in general.