The Decemberists What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World Rough Trade
“We know, we belong to ya, we know you built your life around us.” So begins The Decemberists’ first album in four years; and for the truly dedicated, the sentiment may ring true. It’s been far too long.
The title of the album is taken from the lyrics of 12-17-12, a track which refers to the address made by President Obama following the tragic shooting in Newtown. It’s a weighty title, deeply imbued with meaning, a nod towards the troubles and triumphs that come with age. Darkness is not new ground for The Decemberists (see: Burying Davy or Shankill Butchers), but where they once played with darkness as a flight of fancy, this album sees a much more mature, self-conscious and this- (as opposed to other-) worldly band.
There are plenty of Decemberists staples here: the folksy lilt of Colin Meloy’s unforgettable voice, the choral backdrop of unimpeachably arranged voices, the heavy strum of an acoustic guitar. But there are musical outliers, which together form an album that is wonderfully varied. Some moments sound as if they’re straight out of Appalachia – see Carolina Low and Better Not Wake The Baby. Others, like Calvary Captain, pump up the brass and vocals, and are surprisingly danceable.
“And would we change,” Meloy addresses his audience in the opening song, “we had to change some.” The Decemberists have changed some, but they’re no less the band we fell for. What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World is a delightful addition to the band’s discography, one that both showcases the band’s versatility and beautifully exposes their depth of feeling.