January 30, 2011

January Hymn

The Decemberists
The King Is Dead

On a winter’s Sunday I go
To clear away the snow
And green the ground below

April all an ocean away
Is this the better way to spend the day?
Keeping the winter at bay

What were the words I meant to say before you left?
When I could see your breath lead
Where you were going to
Maybe I should just let it be
And maybe it will all come back to me
Sing: O January O

How I lived a childhood in snow
And all my teens in tow
Stuffed in strata of clothes

Pale the winter days after dark
Wandering the gray memorial park
A fleeting beating of hearts

What were the words I meant to say before she left?
When I could see her breath lead
Where she was going to
Maybe I should just let it be
And maybe it will all come back to me
Sing: O January O

I've been listening to this album pretty much all week. Constantly. N
onstop. I love the lyrics, the instrumentals, the vocals and the simplicity of each track. Amazing music.

Product Description (
from Amazon):

The Decemberists have announced their new album The King Is Dead (Capitol Records, EMI). The album—a set of 10 concise, country-based songs—marks a deliberate turn towards simplicity after the band's wildly ambitious and widely acclaimed 2009 song-cycle The Hazards of Love. Produced once again by Tucker Martine, The King Is Dead features special guest appearances by Americana luminary Gillian Welch on seven tracks and legendary R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck on three tracks.

The King Is Dead showcases the ways in which The Decemberists—Colin Meloy, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, Nate Query, and John Moen—sound just as glorious in simple, stripped-down compositions as they do on the elaborate structures that have defined their work for years.

Meloy points out, however, that creating straightforward, unadorned songs can be at least as hard as building complicated musical epics. "For all my talk about how complex those records were, this one may have been harder to do," he says. "It's a real challenge to make simple music, and lot of times we had to deliberately hold off and keep more space. This record is an exercise in restraint."

The album was recorded in a converted barn at Pendarvis Farm, an 80-acre estate of lush meadows, forest, and Mt. Hood views outside of Portland, and it was the concept of the barn—as recording space and as attitude—that informed the making of The King Is Dead. "We wanted that ethos," he says. "That was the color we wanted the record to have."

To Meloy, in some ways The King Is Dead also represents his own musical journey coming full circle. "Over the last eleven years or so, since I moved to Portland, I feel like I've been mining mostly English traditions for influence", he says. "I guess I've kind of come back to a lot of the more American music that got me going in the first place - R.E.M. and Camper Van Beethoven and all these bands that borrowed from more American traditions like Neil Young and the Byrds."

"Sometimes I kind of miss the epic-ness of the other albums," he continues, "but it's nice to get all of the information across in three minutes. It's like going from reading a novel to reading a bunch of short stories."

Go here to listen to January Hymn. Go here to buy the album, The King Is Dead.


  1. I have high hopes for this album. I LOVE their tunes and voices but the previous lyrics have been too creepy for me. Your post is encouraging.

    As for January, I've been thinking how I hate to see it go. It just may be my favorite month of all. The sun is brighter than any other time of year I think- partly the reflection off the snow. But even inside it is different, more beautiful. It makes me stop and pay attention (as in my sunshine spotlights). And I like that cold, crisp air which makes me feel more alive than any other air.

  2. Nan - I think this is your kind of album! I haven't listened to any of their other albums and from what I've read, this is a bit of a departure.

    You and I are not at all alike when it comes to weather, are we? I was so happy to see the end of January, but I won't be completely thrilled until April 1st. I really dislike winter, as you already know. And, of course, today's weather is the worst so far! Cold, snowing, and strong, gusty winds. Maybe I wouldn't mind so much if I didn't have to go to work. Hmmm. I wonder what tomorrow will bring... ;)


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