It really should not come as a surprise that the newest release from The Decemberists continues where their last full length album ended, but it is disappointing nonetheless. On their last full length album, “The King Is Dead,” many listeners applauded The Decemberists for what was, once again, another album filled with literary references and Colin Meloy’s strange but always engaging voice. However, while the album was still very much a Decemberists album, something had been lost. Instead of songs that surprised the listener with original melodies and surprising twists, “The King Is Dead” sounded a little too predictable. Much like its predecessor, “Long Live the King” fails to surprise and instead features a band that has embraced everything about them that worked but left behind a lot of the nuance that made them appealing.
It is not that “Long Live the King,” or even “The King Is Dead,” for that matter, are bad albums, but instead neither really feel like a Decemberists album. What was once a band that was defined as folk country but sounded a little too rock and roll at times, is now a band that sounds like a really good generic country or bluegrass band. Colin Meloy’s voice used to seem unique, but on “Row Jimmy,” the fifth track of “Long Live the King,” he sounds like almost every other country bar singer. The EP actually started with what seemed like the band of old. The tone of “E. Watson” is reminiscent of that of “Eli the Barrow Boy,” but it fails to ever come near the energy of the latter. Sadly, the addition of Gillian Welch adds very little to the once promising song. Next comes “Foregone,” which starts off sounding more like today’s popular country than anything that has ever come out of The Decemberists. Meloy’s voice is enough to rescue it from such a low comparison, but the blend of twangy guitar still does not quite mix well with the rest of the song. “Burying Davy” is easily the best song to come out of the EP, and it is the one that will remind listeners most of the old Decemberists, but even this song has points that sound clean yet forced.
At one point, The Decemberists seemed to have mastered a new type of country sound, but sadly they have lost the rough edges and upbeat energy that once made them so refreshing. Their new EP is not bad, it is actually a pretty good country album, but it is nowhere near the level of their older albums.