A few days age the Decemberists closed out the year with their EP Long Live the King, in many ways a counterpart to their release from the beginning of the year’s The King Is Dead. Stylistically the release is in line with the last album’s return to lead singer Colin Meloy’s folksy roots in Montana (where he hails from), which is quite a departure from the bands earlier medley of sea shanties, moanings of chimbly sweeps, paeans to the soldering life which culminated in the prog-rock epic concept album The Hazards of Love. Make no mistake though, Meloy’s literary songwriting style is still in full swing and he still plays the role of the bard- just a slightly different kind of bard (maybe one whose swapped his tweed jacket for a corduroy one). Like the last release the theme of mass catastrophe and disaster is still strong, but this time more from the perspective of the rebuilding after the fall. The Grateful Dead cover of Row Jimmy is surprising faithful to the style of the original, with the same loose groove and amelioration of pain. The amorous romp of I 4 U & U 4 Me is surprisingly lighthearted for a Decemberists’ love song. But its not all an after the storm rejoicing- E. Watson with its fever civil-war pitch dream clasping sounds akin to R.E.M.’s Swan Swan H. Buryin Davey is downright spooky as well, like stumbling across some wild-west funeral, or perhaps something out of the Southern Gothic tradition. But perhaps the greatest display of Colin’s love for the literary in in the song Sonnet is an actual sonnet from Dante Alighieri (Medieval Italian author of The Divine Comedy) to his dear friend Guido Cavalcanti. This EP certainly has an albums worth of feeling, but with The Decemberists, whether their singing about Elizabethan sailors or life in the deep south, this is to be expected. Now that Colin has a son and is working on children’s books with wife, as well as most of the other band members being involved in other projects, we may see less frequent releases from The Decemberists, so treasures like this are fine indeed.