The Decemberists, "Down by the Water"

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While the last two albums by Portland, Ore., indie rockers the Decemberists have been operatic song cycles with historical undertones, forthcoming sixth disc "The King Is Dead" is a love letter to country-inspired folk music and '80s indie. Lead single "Down by the Water" previews the homage by featuring R.E.M.'s Peter Buck on guitar and mandolin. Buck's instrumental contributions drive the track, but folk songstress Gillian Welch, who duets with Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, is even more captivating. "So knock me down, tear me up/ But I would bear it all broken just to fill my cup/Down by the water and down by the old main drag," they belt, with Meloy revisiting the nautical themes of the band's past work. "Down by the Water" captures the feeling of desperation with an accessibility that could deliver the Decemberists to a wider audience.