The news that the Decemberists had the number one album on the Billboard charts this week might not initially seem all that surprising to anyone inside the Portland bubble, where the Decemberists are probably the biggest game in town—but the biggest game in the country, at least for a week? That's pretty remarkable, especially considering The King Is Dead reportedly sold 94,000 copies (their highest weekly sales ever), more than DOUBLE what last week's number on album sold: Cake, who sold 44,000 copies and scraped their way to number one with the worst sales for a number one album in the chart's history since the introduction of Soundscan in 1991. (Remember Cake? 44,000 Americans do. Also, 44,000 Americans need to find some new bands to listen to.)
TIME magazine is predicting (and this makes sense to me, too) that "with critical buzz building behind it, The King Is Dead could mark their crossover to the realm of important American rock groups alongside the likes of Wilco and the White Stripes." I bet the Decemberists have their biggest year yet, simply because The King Is Dead is a very good record. For proof of this, look to the OPB concert video above—taped last Wednesday, January 19 at OPB's Portland studio—which saw them running through the album's 10 tracks. It was a great show; in the studio, the band sounds as good as ever, playing to Colin Meloy's songwriting strengths, with three-fifths of the band perhaps reinvigorated by the Black Prairie project, which saw them exercising chops they don't often get to display in Decemberists tunes. The King Is Dead, for all its strengths, probably won't make Decemberists naysayers to stop their naysaying, but for now, it looks like they're in the minority.