The Decemberists - What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Decemberists - What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World

by Jim Harris Rating:7.5 Release Date:2015-01-19

The Decemberists have been around since 2001. Their music has always been a bit too eclectic for my tastes and their reverence to historical topics never struck me as all that interesting. When Peter Buck played on several songs on The King is Dead it tweaked my interest, however, and even though it moved the band into a more mainstream sound, I liked it a little more than their previous stuff, even though I thought it sounded way too much like early R.E.M. In concert The Decemberists seem a touch too loose, a tad bit too grad-student-chic in their side-comments and antics for my tastes.

But owing to all that, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World is the strongest set of songs yet. Colin Meloy has a self-assured quality on this album that was missing from his previous efforts. His voice is relaxed and stronger than ever. 

In such songs as ‘Carolina Low’ and ‘Make You Better’, there is a self-assured quality to the delivery that isn’t masked by eclectic instruments or misdirected quirky lyrics. Colin has matured and now his focus on the song has never been better articulated. Even the very brief (1:44) song ‘Better Not Wake the Baby’ is a tight, well-executed gem.

If you are a fan of the Decemberists, you will certainly embrace What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World like it’s a warm baby (without waking it), but if you’ve avoided this eclectic folk-rock band in the past, this is the album to start with. It reveals a maturity in Colin’s songwriting that elevates his message and songs and finally puts the group in the category they have always been hyped as being in.

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They are a band I keep thinking I'll like, but I can't. It all seems a little too busy, or serious, or something.

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