Album: What A Terrible World, What A Wonderful World
Artist: The Decemberists
Released: January 20, 2015
Label: Capitol Records
“I’m not going on just to sing another suicide sing-a-long” leader singer/songwriter Colin Meloy sings in “Anti-Summer Song”, a response to the old 18th century tales about widows, whores, and infanticide that have once defined the essence of The Decemberists. It seems Meloy has left his story telling to the children’s book trilogy that he’s published during the band’s 4-year hiatus after releasing their last LP, The King is Dead. What a Terrible World What a Beautiful World captures the raw emotions of Meloy himself as he refreshingly opens up about his personal experiences, depicting an intimacy the band has never presented before.
Track one, “The Singer Addresses His Audience,” brings us back to the heartwarming folk sound that their last LP nearly abandoned, setting up the overall vibe of the album. “What a terrible world” Meloy sings in the track titled “12/17/12” where he tells of his grief for the victims of the Newtown, CT shooting which took place on that date. Meloy contrasts such grief in “Lake Song” which brings on the sweet summer feels of honeydew and good times from his youth. Other mentionable tracks include “Carolina Low” and “Make You Better.”
It can be either a hit or miss for fans who loved The Decemberists for Meloy’s gruesome tales, or audiences who are interested in getting to know Meloy as an emotional other, opposed to an unidentified character. Overall, this album represents a shift in what the band has done lyrically, while returning to the vintage Americana musical elements that distinguish their sound.
Reviewed by Kendra Sells