Published Jan 20, 2015For their seventh studio album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, Portland folk rock quintet the Decemberists come back from a short hiatus fully reinvigorated. Lead singer and sole songwriter Colin Meloy barely took the time to register the break, spending the few short years since the release of the Decemberists' The King Is Dead working on a slew of different projects, including another instalment in his series of cover EPs and publishing two more children's books, all while welcoming his second child.
What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, whose title was inspired by President Obama's speech following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, explores themes of disenchantment, parenthood, sexuality and nostalgia, all with the Decemberists' signature musicality and twang-y strings. With help from longtime producer Tucker Martine, Meloy and co. perform a collection of songs that range from the wistful harmonious storytelling of "Till the Water Is All Gone" to the jaunty, banjo-riddled "Better Not Wake the Baby" without ever skipping a beat.
It's hard to find any faults with the album — the arrangements are tight, the instrumentation impeccable — but What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World doesn't necessarily make for an arresting listen. Still, it's an undeniably pleasant and well-rounded project that will be sure to keep fans happy and stadiums filled; just don't expect to become a new fan if you weren't one already. (Capitol)