With What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World, The Decemberists open with an ode to the listeners in “The Singer Addresses His Audience.” Although slow to start, the track is uplifting and nice, singing “We did it all for you” and transitioning into powerful, repetitive lyrics.
By now, of course, The Decemberists have gained quite a following, and this album has convinced me (if I wasn’t already) that The Decemberists are the true pioneers of contemporary folk.
As a country gal myself, I truly appreciate the band’s traditional style and mix of contemporary melodies and instruments. Simple guitar riffs and untainted vocals make the album refreshing, and fun lyrics make it one to sing with your friends. Keeping with traditional folk instruments such as harmonicas and string instruments, The Decemberists also combine brass instruments in this album, as is the case with “Calvary Captain.”
Still expanding their sound, “Philomena” takes on a 50’s doo-wop sound with catchy piano rhythms and the essential “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” of back up singers. “Philomena” is definitely one to make your ears burn. To keep with the sensual lyrics, “Make You Better” starts slow and sweet, opening with “I want you thin fingers…”
The Decemberists are masters at making melodies equally haunting and beautiful in one song. “Till the Water’s All Long Gone” is slower and darker, with country folk guitar riffs. The solemn mood quickly turns upbeat with “The Wrong Year,” embodying a summer sound.
“Carolina Low” follows with a slower melody, but it is definitely a personal favorite. With an old country guitar sound, the track is simple and melancholy. The track reminds me of a backcountry setting…or a funeral.
“Better Not Wake the Baby” also stays with the old country sound but is more upbeat; this one is perfect for a hoedown around the campfire. “Easy Come, Easy Go” transforms the old country sound to a western style, with echo effects on the guitar. “12/17/12” follows with a classic harmonica opening and melodious, elegant flowing lyrics. The album finishes with “A Beginning Song” and ends on an upbeat note.
This album is definitely one I will be listening to until the next one comes out. Whether you are a die-hard fan who loves every album, or if you’re a novice to the charms of this dark folk quartet, What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World is sure to move you and keep you coming back.
Oh, and if you need more convincing, there’s always this Nick Offerman video.
Nikki grew up in an imitation German town in Georgia by the name of Helen. It wasn’t until middle school that she started to get interested in the arts: painting, music, and writing. She wrote in her diary, sketched in art class and listened to regretful music. By high school, her tastes became a little more refined. She found Fiona Apple, Lou Reed and Giant Drag, and they remain her favorites in college. She was accepted to the University of Georgia in 2012 and is currently majoring in English. Upon moving to Athens from a town with more trees than people, Nikki was a bit overwhelmed. However, there is certainly no lack of inspiration in Athens, and she appreciates its love for the arts and its service as a platform.