Chantal AndersonThe Decemberists performing at Marymoor Park in 2009Artist: The DecemberistsAlbum: The King is Dead, out January 18Song: “Down By the Water”Skip, Stream or Buy:
Download it. What the hell, it’s free.On January 18, the Decemberists will release a new album on Capitol called The King is Dead, and it is currently possible to download a track from the album, “Down By the Water,” on the band’s website (you do have to give out your e-mail address.) The King is Dead will feature guest guitar work from R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, and indeed, “Down By the Water” sounds more like an R.E.M. song than a Decemberists song. The captivating prose that made the band’s first few releases so impressive is absent here, and while there’s nothing wrong with the dumbed-down simplified lyricism or the song itself — it’s a catchy little tune with some nice accordion and harmonica parts, even if the latter does sound stolen straight outta the the Neil Young playbook — it’s nothing to get particularly excited about, either, especially if you prefer the Decemberists pre-Picaresque (read: pre-Capitol). “Down By the Water” is a pleasant ditty that the average radio-listening musical dilettante will enjoy. The band’s strategy appears to be as follows: sound as much like R.E.M. as possible and perhaps we will become as famous as they are! Because if “Down By the Water” is any indicator, the Decemberists are very good at sounding like R.E.M. With a head cold.