Music Monday :: my thoughts on What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

26 Jan

Or, I am so excited my enthusiasm about album releases continues to grow.

“The Singer Addresses His Audience.”  Oh.  The sweet wistfulness of Decemberists music makes me feel just so happy and calm in a way that a lot of things cannot achieve.  It’s weird, because most of their songs are not at all happy, but it’s just such warm familiar weirdness that it’s soothing.  “When your bridal processional is a televised confessional to the benefits of Axe shampoo.”  Who else writes weirdo lyrics like that and then backs their chorus with low choral voices?  I feel so good inside.  These are my people.  And it’s evolving into this jamming, echoing, repeating “to belong, to belong, to belong” that I just want to float away to.

“Cavalry Captain.”  This sounds sort of like a whimsied-up version of a 1970s television theme, and I mean that in a good way.  Also I love that these guys use “away” as a verb, as in “we’ll away at the break of day,” which is not something that enough people say.  I’m so enamored of old-fashioned linguistic turns.

“Philomena.”  I’m looking forward to this.  I’ve heard rumors about this song and how it is about something that I am very glad it is about.  And yes, it is very definitely about that.  It also includes groovy “la la la la la, aaahhh” backing which makes it sound vintage.  But this is the good thing about modern-vintage.  It can be explicitly about going down and still have the sorts of cooing vocal stylings.

“Make You Better.”  All right, so far guitar.  Apparently this was the first released single but I haven’t actually heard it until now, I don’t think.  I can only think of a few things that would make this moment better.  I’m comfortable in bed listening to Colin Meloy sing about going down while drinking an Oreo milkshake.  That’s pretty heavenly for me.  Choruses of Decemberists songs always feel like visiting a favorite places, even if it’s a song I’ve never heard before.  This feels close and right and nice.  “We’re not so starry-eyed anymore, like the perfect paramour you were in your letters.”  Again.  Not a thing you hear enough, the word “paramour.”  Also the phrase “starry-eyed.”  I’m personally very fond of both of those things.

“Lake Song.”  Oh oh oh oh twang.  There’s twang afoot.  There’s twang and it’s about a lake.  I feel like someone has doubtless already made a varyingly Southern Gothic “songs about water” mix somewhere, but here’s another candidate.  “Whatever you prevaricate.”  I’m so thrilled that the word “prevaricate” was just used.  I’m just falling apart in this poetry.

“Till the Water’s All Long Gone.”  Oh, and here’s a darker song about water for that same mix.  It’s more poetry and more being lost in pretty melodies and words and there’s betraying and straying and is it over already I think I actually did float away to this one.

“The Wrong Year.”  Oh, this is… “gray Jane was a river child, born down by the river wild.”  What stories they tell.  How completely useless they are for more specific mix albums because their songs are so unique to the topic they are about and cannot really apply, but they are so brilliant and lovely to listen to.  It’s chipper enough but also things are misbegotten and there’s a summer child and “the rain falls on the wrong year and it won’t leave you alone.”

“Carolina Low.”  Hhhhhhhhhh proper Gothic Americana.  “I am a boy from the high country and I got a little love for the offering, I come down from the mountain bow to the sea and Carolina low I will carry thee.”  I just want to twirl around in a cotton dress to this in the dark.  Where there are fireflies maybe.  Sticky heat like I normally hate paired with bare feet paired with a sparkler in one hand and moonshine in the other.

“Better Not Wake the Baby.”  Oh, this is clearly the Gothic Americana portion of the album because oh oh oh oh this is that in spades and I’m so — so — “drown yourself in crocodile tears, curse the got what made ya” it’s so perfectly this and I’m flailing about it.

“Anti-Summersong.”  A callout to the “Summersong” of The Crane Wife so many years back (that makes me feel old, I was in high school when The Crane Wife came out, how am I so old).  It’s not exactly tonally different, to any particular degree, but “so long farewell don’t everybody fall all over themselves” I love their mix of old-time proper grammar and country kick.

“Easy Come, Easy Go.”  And this.  This is one-half Gothic Americana and one-half Tarantino film, and that’s probably the best combination I could have ever asked for.  Tonally it suits, lyrically it suits, I feel like he’s singing us a story and also possibly warning us about the wickedness of our ways indirectly.  It’s powerful.

“Mistral.”  Is… this a song about the messy-looking cursive font common on old Windows systems?  I doubt it.  The lyrics sound more like a story about a road trip gone horribly awry, and apparently the mistral is also “a strong, cold and northwesterly wind” and I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going on because they’re singing about the mistral blowing it all away, but honestly, my first thought was the font because I am a horrible font junkie.

“12/17/12.”  Wikipedia informed me that this was in part about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and also about Colin Meloy’s strange feelings about how he was content in his personal life while also hearing about this horrible thing going on.  As such, I’m just going to process it with minimal commentary.

“A Beginning Song.”  Ah, of course.  Contrarians they are, finishing the album with a beginning.  “Let’s commence to coordinate our sights,” and there’s another word you don’t get enough, “commence.”  It’s so warm and fuzzy and really rather epic and that makes me feel really, really nice.

–your fangirl heroine.

pretty please


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