The Decemberists Enjoy the Journey on 'As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again'

BY Erica Commisso Published Jun 14, 2024


Colin Meloy's been a busy guy — his YA and children's novels have taken up a lot of his time. He didn't intend for the Decemberists' hiatus from music to span six years, but the band's latest, As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again, marks their first album in over half a decade.

As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again marks another first for the Decemberists: It's their debut release under new label YABB Records after nearly two decades with Capitol. It feels fitting, then, that the album sounds like a return to the band's roots, a folksy project brimming with intricate storytelling that pays homage to historical times while exploring new themes and updated modes of sound.

"America Made Me" could've popped off at the height of Beatlemania, but tells the tale of people fatigued by the current state of society, attempting delusionally to buy into the capitalist dream. "Give me something to sleep / A little something to sleep / Maybe something that won't keep me from my sleep," Meloy croons repeatedly as a full-piece band keeps a jaunty upbeat tempo behind him.

As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again is the Decemberists' longest-ever project, a 13-track effort that finishes with the winding, 19-minute "Joan in the Garden." The album's penultimate track offers funereal bells and church organ, scrambled samples and odyssean synthesizers to fill a song inspired by Joan of Arc's hallucinatory visitation by angels, as depicted in Jules Bastien-Lepage's famed oversized painting.

The band does on this release what it does so well: take listeners on a folkloric journey through a wildly specific concept, an idea that certainly lends itself to Meloy's efforts as an author. Each song feels like a short story. Some, but not all, are interconnected, and many boast a vast cast of characters — including 16th-century diplomat William Fitzwilliam, who's melodic name became the title of the album's fifth track.  

The record marries the past and the present, telling historical tales through modern storytelling methods and borrowing from country, pop and vintage rock. Meloy has his art down to a science, and the Decemberists take their fans through as winding and rewarding a trip as ever, complete with an abundance of twists and turns that suggest that the journey, long as it may be, is the true reward. 

(Thirty Tigers)

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