Portland indie rockers the Decemberists, long known for their encyclopedic lyrics and mournful delivery, met the rising indie zeitgeist halfway with this year's The King Is Dead. The album, the band's most pop-friendly to date, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart. That marks the culmination of a steady rise in the band's mainstream popularity; 2009's The Hazards of Love reached as high as fourteen. 2005's Picaresque, still by far the best album in the Decemberists' catalogue, never got higher than 135. These days, the bandmembers are less interested in finding things to rhyme with "arrears" and more interested in collaborating with R.E.M., as they did on current single "Down by the Water." That song also features Americana legend Gillian Welch, and if you're looking for the dual directions in which the Decemberists are headed, that's as good an indication as you'll get.
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