Dec 082011
Authors: Joe Vajgrt

The Decemberists have long been the darlings of indie music lovers and NPR aficionados alike. But when their breakthrough album “The King is Dead” reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts earlier this year, even their most die-hard fans were surprised.

Fresh on the heels of their new-found mainstream popularity, the assumption was that the band would try to capitalize on the album’s success and tour extensively while trying to release new music as soon as possible.

Instead, front man and songwriter Collin Meloy, who calls himself “compulsively creative,” will begin promoting his new illustrated young adult book “Wildwood,” the first in a three-part fantasy series for HarperCollins he is producing with his wife, artist Carson Ellis. Meloy says he would also like to write a musical and tackle a studio project or two during the band’s hiatus.

Meloy puts the timetable at about three years before the band will return with new material. So where does that leave the band’s most loyal fans?

Thankfully, the band just released a 6-song EP entitled “Long Live the King.”

Consisting of outtakes from “The King Is Dead,” (the title of which is an homage to Michael Jackson, the former “King of Pop”), “Long Live the King” doesn’t possess many surprises.

Meloy’s trademark nasal warble of a voice and complicated lyrics replete with literary themes are ever-present on the disc, and the songs largely continue the twangy, Nashville-inspired trend heard on their most recent full-length.

Opening track, “E. Watson” tells the tale of a Civil War–era soldier’s downfall and subsequent burial in the Everglades.

“Burying Davy” starts like many Decemberists songs; but by its end, Meloy and company get their rock on à la 2009’s “The Hazards of Love,” an epic prog-rock opera that involved fantastical characters and a fully narrative lyrical structure.

Finally, “Sonnet” closes out the album on a high note. This is by far my favorite track on the EP and leaves me wondering how it found its way to the cutting room floor in the first place. The vocals and guitar are hook-laden, and the song culminates and fades out in a cheery horn-infused sendoff reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel.

At just 10 songs, “The King is Dead” left me wanting much, much more from the Decemberists. But until they return in three years, “Long Live the King” will have to suffice.

Ãœber-nerd and music lover Joe Vajgrt can be reached at

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