hey folks! we’re back with another review From the Vault, continuing the discography review of The Decemberists! this series of reviews covers the band’s whole discography, from 2003’s 5 Songs EP all the way to 2018’s Travelling On! this review was originally written in October 2021.

next in the discography, we’re checking out 2015’s What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World:

The Singer Addresses His Audience is a funny way to start the album, esp right after an album where they… probably alienated some long time listeners. it sounds like this song is intended to be about a fictional band, but i dunno Colin. this feels just a lil bit confessional, haha. Cavalry Captain feels a lot like a Picareque-era track, and man this one’s so bright and catchy. big fan. Philomena’s really good! i dont have much more to say than what Meloy said in a Salon interview for this album –

“I think this is my attempt of making a portrait — a bundling idea of what human sexuality is and could be. It started out as this very innocent chord progression and a melody that was so pristine and ‘50s innocent that it felt like it needed to be dirtied up significantly, and out came the dirtiest Decemberists song ever written.”

yeah dude. yeah. Make You Better definitely grows on you for sure. I love the way it like, breaks out into the chorus. Lake Song’s aight. lyrically its v interesting but its just aight. I’m not super huge on Till the Water’s All Long Gone either. the bridge in The Wrong Year is great but the rest of it i feel about the same. feels a little redundant but im kinda middling on Carolina Low. Better Not Wake the Baby is a rousing track – adore that banjo. not huge on Anti-Summersong, though it does fit the vibes set up by A Singer Addresses. “Three freaks in a Vanagon” is an extremely amusing line to be for some reason. very funny to me that immediately after going “not gonna sing another singalong suicide song” theyre like “but we can have a grim song about the eventuality of death tho. as a treat.” also the fucking guitar in Easy Come, Easy Go is a rattlesnake, its so good and sinister. love the guitar solo too. damn. The Mistral is catchy, with that nice little piano flair, but otherwise a lil unimpressive. i think 12/17/12 is a nice heart to the record, being the “title track”. the title of the track is the date of the Sandy Hook Shooting, and the song is largely about Meloy’s unborn kid, making it an interesting musing on joy in a world of grief. a bittersweet track for sure, and definitely a different take on what id expect from the “Decemberists making a bittersweet song”. i like A Beginning Song as a closing song.

faves – Cavalry Captain, Philomena, Make You Better, Better Not Wake the Baby, Easy Come, Easy Go
dislikes –

man this album starts off so strong – the intro song isnt my fave but it works, and Cavalry Captain into Philomena into Make You Better is so so good. Lake Song begins kind of like, a quieter period on the album and i just kinda drift for a bit until like, Better Not Wake the Baby. not the worst thing in the world but it did keep losing me, haha. and then the ending is nice but not outstanding. i dunno! i enjoyed this one, especially as a collection of tracks, but as a sequenced, themed album, i think it was a little weaker. def worth a listen tho, and damn im gonna be listening to a lot of these tracks for a while.

What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World – 6/10

next in the discography, we’re looking at another outtakes EP but for this record: florasongs

first: 5 Songs EP | previous: Long Live the King | next: florasongs

all my reviews for The Decemberists