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By Charlie David Page
12th January 2015

As far as indie folk is concerned, The Decemberists are essentially the genre's modern-day cornerstone. The Oregon five-piece have been lying low since the release of 'The King Is Dead' back in 2011, but are bursting back into our consciousness with the very solid new album 'What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World'.

The album gets started with a very relaxed tune, as the band present 'The Singer Addresses His Audience', a song which holds a mirror to the symbiotic relationship between the artist and their audience. What starts as a gentle acoustic outing with Colin Meloy's solitary voice gradually swells into a rocky affair, complete with flanging electric guitar and striking violins.

This leads seamlessly into 'Cavalry Captain', a rambunctious song bursting with life, its up-tempo tune drizzled with healthy amounts of tambourine, strings and vivacious drums. Then there's the almighty 'Philomena', with its graceful 1960s-style harmonies, and a tale of teenage boy angst: "All that I wanted in the world / Was just to live to see a naked girl / But I found I quickly bored / I wanted more".


The album's first single 'Make You Better' is well-trodden territory for The Decemberists; its familiarity is welcoming, with its colourful lyrics and Jenny Conlee's superlative supporting vocals making this an extremely memorable tune.

There is something of a lull toward the middle of the album; a sagging as time wears on. Perhaps there's a certain similarity between the songs, but many of the tracks seem to blend into each other at this point on the album.

Fortunately, it's not all downhill. There's much more to take in, and enjoy thoroughly. 'Better Not Wake the Baby' is a rollicking shanty-esque song, its brevity berated by banjoes and the tale of a belligerent partnership. Then there's the bright and meandering 'Anti-Summersong', and the beautiful 'A Beginning Song', a raw and lively ending that will leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

This is a compilation of the contrasting nature of humanity.

For those familiar with the previous work of The Decemberists, it's interesting to note that this album takes on something of a personal element, largely departing from the narrative tales of their past albums. It's the reasoning behind the title 'What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World' - this is a compilation of the contrasting nature of humanity. The very reflective '12/17/12' was apparently written after Meloy listened to U.S. President Barack Obama's speech following the Newtown school shootings, and yet is interspersed with a reminder of the importance of family and friendship.

The new offering from The Decemberists is a superbly easy listen, brimming with lazy summer songs. It may not be perfect, but it's certainly a breath of fresh air. The diversity of disposition delivers an accurately conflicted idea of the world in which we all currently live.

Like it? Follow it. Follow The Decemberists' Huddle at the top of this page (you'll have to sign in or join up first) for the latest tour details, news and reviews from the artist.

BAND: The Decemberists
MEMBERS: Colin Meloy
Chris Funk
Jenny Conlee
Nate Query
John Moen
FORMED: 2000
FROM: Portland, Usa
FACEBOOK: thedecemberists
TWITTER: @thedecemberists
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