The Portland, Oregon-based, folk-rock veterans, The Decemberists return with their 7th album, What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World. Their last effort, The King is Dead, was the band’s biggest commercial success to date (debuting at number one on album charts) and found the band pulling back from the obscure lyrical references of early works and focusing more on pop hooks and a cohesive album feel. This time the band splits the differences with injecting some of the former creative spirit of early work but still remaining more upbeat and radio friendly.
The album gets off to fine start with “The Singer Addresses His Audience”, which is almost an explanation of the band’s evolution. Some fans will always crave the days of the The Crane Wife and Picaresque but bands evolve and frontman Colin Meloy is pretty up front in this lead track that they have changed. Lyrics aside, this track builds nicely and closes with some excellent violin and driving guitars.
“Make You Better” could easily have been on the last album and was an obvious choice for a single. This one is carried by Colin’s voice, simple guitar strumming and nice piano work. It is not pushing the envelope, but is an enduring song about love, relationship and growth.
“Lake Song” is mostly an acoustic number with great but subtle orchestration from the band. The more sparse instrumentation is picked up and driven home hard by Colin’s voice. It, more so than any other track, evokes the sound of more classic Decemberists and yet is nestled nicely in with the band’s current sound.
The album ironically closes with “A Beginning Song”. Collin repeatedly asks the questions, “I am waiting, should I be waiting?” and “I am wanting, should I be wanting?”. These questions appear to be open ended, but finally as the song closes he provides reasons to wait which include “the boys”, “the shadows”, “the quiet”, “the light”, and seemingly most important “the love” all around him. It’s a fantastic, uplifting closer to an excellent addition to a fine catalog of music.
What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World is out now and can be purchased at www.decemberists.com, iTunes, and Amazon.
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