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Album Review: The Decemberists – What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World

Oregon (and every hipster alive)’s favorite folk rock band The Decemberists deliver their seventh studio album.  Just how beautiful or terrible is this new release?


Text Review:

If there was ever a band who every rock fan identifies as the hipster posterboys, it’s the Decemberists.  The undeniable truth is that they have earned some of the hipster crowd through their attire and folk inspired music over the past decade, but in reality the band has kept their fan base by just how creative and diverse their music can be.

While 2005’s Picaresque is definitely one of my all-time favorite albums, I can’t say that I have loved every album since.  With many different changes in style and accompaniment, world tours, and appearances on The Colbert Report and Conan, you cannot deny the success of Colin Meloy and company.

Over the recent years The Decemberists have become a little more down tempo and in some cases stripped down.  Proof of this being the previous The King Is Dead which had more shades of country than alternative or folk rock.  I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the album outside of “Down By The Water”, but I know that there are others that were.  The Kind is Dead made me long for the days of Picaresque and even epic concepts like The Hazards of Love.

The release of What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World definitely continues the Decemberists’ identity in creating imagery and poetic lyrics.  After making a faux email announcement about the upcoming album and tracklist, it appears that the group appear just as ambitious and whimsical as ever.

But it wasn’t until we saw the first video of the band performing Make You Better on a Russian TV show featuring Nick Offerman as a hopeless romantic that we knew The Decemberists had something special planned.

Make You Better is the quintessential Decemberists song with its flowing prose and instruments that all seem to just harmonize and melt together.  The electric guitar and piano combination adds a gorgeous walking tune as this song feels destined to be the soundtrack to roughly a dozen upcoming summer romance movies.

It’s the type of song that I think The Decemberists are the best at delivering, something reflective and peaceful but now too slow.  Lyrically Make You Better stands among many other songs on this album as proof of the band’s writing and song composure.  Like many albums from The Decemberists in the past, this song feels like a short story in a collection.

After the release of the mini video for Make You Better, the band released a lyric video of Lake Song.  This one reminds me of songs on past albums like Picaresque and The Crane Wife.  It has that airy peaceful feel to it.

There are several songs like Lake Song on this album that are a little slower paced, especially in the latter half of the album.  What A Terrible World What a Beautiful World doesn’t ever get too loud, but offers a lot in style and diversity.  Songs like Calvary Captain speed a little faster while Carolina Low and 12-17-12 calm everything down while still keeping your attention.

I can’t say every song is going to have you drooling in amazement.  There are one or two tracks of the fourteen that you may feel aren’t worth playing through if you are going from beginning to end on this album, but the positives undeniably outweigh the negatives here.

The Decemberists are one of many bands who will always be easy targets for their style, image, topics they sing about, etc., but it is hard to deny the pure talent these musicians have.  Even if it’s not going to be for everyone, The Decemberists have proven they can create new worlds with their music.

Overall, What a Terrible World What a Beautiful World should satisfy just about every longtime fan of the band.  There is more than enough in this album to have you keep coming back as well as remind you of everything the band has also done.