The Decemberists: Nerd Rock

It’s a clear, chilly winter day in Portland, Ore., and Colin Meloy, leader of the Decemberists, is expounding on folk chanteuse Gillian Welch’s guest vocals on their new album, The King Is Dead. “No country-rock record would be complete without some backing vocalist with a clear and distinct voice,” he says, citing Nicolette Larson’s singing on Neil Young’s Comes a Time and Emmylou Harris’ work with Gram Parsons.