Album Review: The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
In the diluted world of indie music few bands are able to retain a distinguishable sound uniquely theirs. In the case of the Decemberists, all you need are the song titles. One brief glance at the back of the new CD What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World and you see the familiar themes (“Captain”, “Lake Song”, “Water All Gone”). If you can blame Colin Meloy for being unimaginative in his themes, you can’t do the same for any lack of pop prowess. He’s still a maestro at producing beautiful folk-pop, when he wants to be. The sound he and his band produce every two years changes a little more often, thankfully, than the fact that every Decemberists album gives you the feeling that Meloy fell off a pirate ship in the Pacific with his lost love, 157 years ago. SoCal pop this is not.
What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World brings the Decemberists back to their median, avoiding the extremes they’ve touched on with their previous releases (2011’s very dry, but beautifully melodic The King is Dead, which came less than two years after the awkward Hazards of Love from 2009). Their new album features perhaps their most perfect pop song ever (‘The Wrong Year’) and includes staples (“Lake Song”) that ring back to their mid-90’s string of albums that never deviated far from each other or from the Decemberists’ original formula before Meloy decided to branch out oddly with Hazards of Love. Consider this a homecoming, and a very good one.