What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World — Decemberists (Track-By-Track Review)

The band named for a massacre is back with a new album, their seventh, about a massacre. Visions of Sandy Hook haunt vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Colin Meloy as he share his glimpses in the depths of human kindness and our perverse potential for evil on What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World.


(Song titles in caps)

An smattering of optimism limns an escalating ode to togetherness born from interpersonal isolation when THE SINGER ADDRESSES HIS AUDIENCE.

Disparate hearts lionise and provide succour through call/response overlaying a tastefully thick percussive saddle for the CAVALRY CAPTAIN.

Roosevelt-era (Frank not Ted) oohing and ahhing brighten up the otherwise simplistic elegy to the denuded PHILOMENA. Is that a vibraphone?

MAKE YOU BETTER was my #81 song of 2014 and its melodic sheen still lustres atop delicious instrumentation. Offermanic music video too.

LAKE SONG is a trademark sprawling narrative set to spartan tinkling. An incongruous lack of rhyming is counteracted by the syrupy vox.

Largely pointless 5-minute minor key exercise though I do appreciate the correct spelling in TILL THE WATER’S ALL LONG GONE.

Nostalgia, yearning and precipitation conflate, combust and reform in the sparkling, standout, oh so right selection, THE WRONG YEAR.

Strip it all bare, as on CAROLINA LOW, and you can feel a near oneiric beauty, like being swallowed by a lush mesmeric sidereal landscape.

A clattering plaintive cry for gun control (?), including a Sunday Bloody Sunday inspired refrain, but, alas, it BETTER NOT WAKE THE BABY.

Bluegrass meets Joyous mandolining with a happy splash of harmonica on the ironically upbeat but *pace* downright downcast ANTI-SUMMERSONG.

EASY COME, EASY GO is an apt title for the third quickfire track on Side B. Rare case of a band showing depth by laying down shorter tracks.

MISTRAL is a paragon of the delightful, breezy glimpses into northwestern sensibilities the Ds are famous for. Fade-out coda was unexpected.

It’s an album about a massacre by a band named for a massacre but 12/17/12 still kicks you in the belly. What a heartbreaking song.

A concluding vibration of pathos and buoyancy, redolent of the opener 50 minutes ago, made concrete by titling it A BEGINNING SONG. Go out and play.

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