The need for a new simplicity was not lost on the members of The Decemberists as they made their latest album.
Following the complex song cycle of 2006’s “The Crane Wife” and the full-blown rock opera of 2009’s “The Hazards of Love,” making an album of just songs — which the Portland, Ore., group did on “The King is Dead” — was “kind of the right move at the right time,” according to drummer John Moen.
“We definitely all agreed that we’d like to make this sort of an album,” Moen, 42, says of The Decemberists’ sixth album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week. “I like all the trajectories we wind up taking. ‘The Hazards of Love’ is totally engaging for me; playing it every night, I didn’t get tired of it, which was a surprise.
“But you can try to keep that momentum and that kind of tack and try to be bigger and better, and you can fall into a trap doing that. I’m wondering what everybody will think of this move, but I thought that about (‘The Hazards’), too.”
Recorded in a barn on a converted farm near Portland, “The King is Dead” draws influence from California country rock of the ’60s and ’70s, as well as some rock influences — particularly R.E.M., whose guitarist, Peter Buck, appears on three tracks, including the single “Down By the Water.”
“We knew some of the songs were an homage to R.E.M.,” Moen says, “so we thought it would be smart to get an R.E.M. person on it so it wasn’t too rip-offy. We’re acquainted with Peter. His girlfriend lives here, so he lives part-time here in Portland and he’s around a lot.
“And it’s not all that hard to snare him, honestly. He loves music and he’s really good at what he does with it and he’s up for recording sessions. I’ve been with him in a couple of other sessions here in town. He’s kind of part of the community, I think, so to have him on our (album) was just all in the family, in a way.”
The Decemberists and Wye Oak perform Wednesday, Feb. 2, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are sold out. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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