A songwriter with a creative writing degree isn't going to write about the same old material: love, sex, and partying. As Jimmy Kimmel said while introducing them on their recent show appearance,
"It's not your usual, I wanna get busy with your body kind of thing." Instead, Decemberists
frontman Colin Meloy puts his education to use by writing cerebral, story-like songs that seem to come out of old novels on dusty shelves.
The Decemberists are constantly editing themselves on their latest album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
. On the first track, "The Singer Addresses His Audience," Meloy comes right out with it: "We know, we know we belong to ya," "We had to change some," "We did it all for you." The self-edit theme continues throughout the record. In 2006 they wrote the morose "Summersong" in 2015, they've created the "Anti-Summersong," where Meloy sings, "I'm not going on just to sing another singalong, suicide song/So long, farewell, don't everybody fall all over themselves."
They've been releasing material since 2001 and it's been four years since their last studio album, The King Is Dead
, so some shift of perspective is to be expected. Even if the Portland band is welcoming changes in their songwriting, the best parts remain. Their songs still give us a wide assortment of stories, from the untimely death of a sailor on "Easy Come, Easy Go" to the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting on "12/17/12," the track from which the album's title gets it's name.
As well as their extensive vocabulary, they reveal an extensive library on instruments. Instruments appear on the record that are not common to most indie bands: Meloy has been known to play the bouzouki
, Jenny Conlee plays the accordion and melodica, and Nate Query plays the stand-up bass and cello. Chris Funk also plays the guitar, and John Moen the drums. Being a little different from everyone else is what makes The Decemberists so good, and this carries through in What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
is out now on Capitol Records
. Get your copy here!