• Record Label: Capitol
  • Release Date: Jan 18, 2011

Generally favorable reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 38
  2. Negative: 1 out of 38
  1. On The King is Dead, The Decemberists decided to fully immerse themselves in a style they've flirted with for years.
  2. Jan 18, 2011
    It's a refreshing change from the usual compilation of bibliophile, sea shanty/murder ballad, and while the Led Zeppelin III-style rural overhauling may isolate fans who prefer the serpentine, progressive art rock of albums like The Crane Wife and Hazards of Love, it opens up a whole new continent for the band to explore.
  3. 70
    The songs on The King Is Dead don't collapse under the weight of their lite-FM armor; conversely, they endure in spite of it. One way or another, the Decemberists write good songs, regardless of how they're gift-wrapped.
  4. Jan 27, 2011
    It's a lavish aural luxury worn by Meloy, his limited range worked to its finest by the glorious Welch chiming in, the two matched like a 21st century Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.
  5. Jan 14, 2011
    It is, simply, a thing of beauty, its hook quotient the highest of The Decemberists' discography.
  6. The King is Dead is a few layers of vocal harmony away from being a Fleet Foxes record, which is fine, but the Decemberists are at their best when they sound like themselves.
  7. Jan 18, 2011
    The King Is Dead is the Portland, Ore., band's most streamlined effort since 2005's "Picaresque," and it's a welcome reminder that frontman Colin Meloy can write evocative songs where the words stand on their own.
  8. Jan 18, 2011
    This latest offering is a finessed folk-rock record to bring a little taste of long summer evening drives to the glacial January gloom.
  9. Jan 18, 2011
    The band plays it safe here, but after going way off to left field on its last release, this isn't a bad thing.
  10. Mar 9, 2011
    A good few years on from the rise and partial Fall of the Decemberists, Meloy and Co. are managing, still, to carry the fire.
  11. 80
    The balance of scenery and sins as well as some jangly guitar work from R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and the glassy background pipes of Gillian Welch render The King Is Dead a middle-of-the-road record, a pleasant, introspective stroll through the cottonwoods whose creaky comfort gets The Decemberists out of their comfort zone.
  12. 80
    The King is Dead serves as enough solid music to lull us over until the next official album.
  13. Jan 14, 2011
    As a relative paradigm shift of an album, The King is Dead is a success, with The Decemberists managing to make their transition smoothly, creating a work that is well-structured, hook-driven and coherent.
  14. 91
    The Decemberists redeem themselves with their sixth LP, The King Is Dead, a 40-minute set that's more succinctly rewarding than anything they've done in years.
  15. Jan 18, 2011
    It's a loose, easy-rolling centerpiece to an album that shows, after several fussier efforts, how effectively the Decemberists can make use of open space in their music. The King is Dead--long live the king.
  16. Jan 18, 2011
    The King Is Dead clings so closely to formula that it doesn't sound like homage or even truth; it sounds like the studious but unconvincing work of an extremely gifted mimic.
  17. Mojo
    Apr 12, 2011
    Portland's college-rock heirs downsize with Peter Buck-featuring sixth album. [Feb. 2011, p. 106]
  18. Jan 7, 2011
    The album may not be as majestic, but it's certainly a lot more real.
  19. 40
    At least once they had a snappy poetic sensibility and an admirable interest in history. Unfortunately, now they are pure turgid Americana pastiche.
  20. Jan 27, 2011
    It's laudable that The Decemberists are still prepared to try something different, still prepared to break away from what they're known for. There's a tiny concern that they've lost something which set them apart from the pack, but as long as they're still capable of writing such strong material, they'll retain their deserved reputation.
  21. Jan 27, 2011
    It's a solid album with strong production and songwriting, but it won't blow any minds.
  22. Jan 18, 2011
    The King's strength lies in its ability to pack light and still pack a punch.
  23. Jan 18, 2011
    It's good to have Meloy and his band settling back to Earth and writing songs for the sake of the songs themselves-having stopped so plainly swinging for the fences, they've pulled off a record more impressive for its consistency and quiet confidence than anything they've done in years.
  24. Jan 14, 2011
    Instead of complaining about the soullessness of life under the major-label umbrella, naysayers ought to be examining the band's true aesthetic motivations for taking an earthier, more straightforward approach on The King Is Dead.
  25. Q Magazine
    Feb 1, 2011
    The Decemberists have never sounded more ordinary. [Feb. 2011, p. 114]
  26. Jan 20, 2011
    The way they put together their country-rock is rarely less than tasteful with some nice moments, like the sinuous guitar riff of 'Calamity Song'. Only on 'January Hymn', though, where they capture the stillness and melancholy of winter beautifully, do you forget to check the joinery.
  27. Jan 14, 2011
    For a band able to push the limits of songwriting, it's a revelation, and a chance to see how deep simplicity goes. Very deep, it turns out.
  28. Jan 14, 2011
    Those tracks, which favorably recall early R.E.M. and the Replacements in both content and style, suggest the album The King Is Dead could have been had the band exercised more precise, more genre-aware editing.
  29. Jan 6, 2011
    Ten crisp roots-rock tunes in a mere 40 minutes, The King Is Dead finds the Decemberists in serious course-correction mode -- which is a relief, if also kind of sad.
  30. Jan 7, 2011
    The end result is a tepid, lifeless album devoid of everything that we've come to expect from them in this part of their career, leaving only the most traditional aspects of their sound intact.
  31. Jan 18, 2011
    The King Is Dead spreads 10 songs across 40 minutes, and there isn't a bum track in the bunch.
  32. Jan 14, 2011
    The King Is Dead is ear-openingly different for the Decemberists, but the pretty country-rock might soothe even the hardest of cowboy hearts.
  33. Jan 14, 2011
    A relatively understated delight from a band few might have suspected capable of understatement.
  34. The Independent on Sunday (UK)
    Jan 18, 2011
    It's lovely to fall asleep to. Which is a compliment, not a complaint.
  35. Jan 21, 2011
    The Decemberists blend rock and folk well (there's even a nod to the famous Raggle Taggle Gypsy Man in a riff on Rox In The Box) and the songwriting crafts pastoral and emotional imaginery into tight-knit, attractive songs. This album is an unexpected treat.
  36. Jan 18, 2011
    No, at best, The King Is Dead is a patchwork of genre exercises, giving listeners little more than a chance to play "spot the influence." But even then it fails, for it taps only a very shallow stream of tradition, focusing on a series of folk facsimiles from the 70s and 80s that never quite add up to the real thing.
  37. Uncut
    Jan 24, 2011
    The Decemberists' most immediate and outgoing album. [Feb 2011, p.76]
  38. Under The Radar
    Jan 6, 2011
    The King Is Dead feels more like a full-band Decemberists album than nearly anything they've done before, and much less like The Colin Meloy Show of the last two records. [Year End 2010, p.68]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 72 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 16
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 16
  3. Negative: 0 out of 16
  1. Jan 19, 2011
    Well, The Decemberists new release, "The King Is Dead", is a countrified- folk rock wonder. This album is just fantastic. After the first fewWell, The Decemberists new release, "The King Is Dead", is a countrified- folk rock wonder. This album is just fantastic. After the first few seconds I was reminded of Tarkio, an alternative country band that Colin Meloy headed before The Decemberists. A fantastic album, not a single weak track on it. Full Review »
  2. Jan 24, 2011
    If you're already a Decemberists fan you probably don't need any convincing that this album is a great investment of time. It feels like aIf you're already a Decemberists fan you probably don't need any convincing that this album is a great investment of time. It feels like a step backwards, returning to a more "Picaresque" sensibility with a country music twist but while they have stylistically stepped back they have creatively stepped forward. It almost feels like a concept album tied together with "seasonal" songs but it isn't quite, it all just fits together so well you want it to be though. A great album if you love the Decemberists and if you don't then maybe this is where you should give them another chance. Full Review »
  3. Jan 22, 2011
    This is an awesome album. One of my favorites from The Decemberists. They finally switched up their genre and the rock/pop feeling they go forThis is an awesome album. One of my favorites from The Decemberists. They finally switched up their genre and the rock/pop feeling they go for is nailed perfectly. There is no weak track in this entire album and is worth every cent. Buy it. Full Review »