As It Ever Was, So It Will Be (The Decemberists) – music review

At this point, The Decemberists have a nice music history. The group formed in 2000 when Colin Meloy moved to Portland, Oregon, meeting Nate Query, Jenny Conlee, and Chris Funk. Their sound blends folk rock with complex narratives and varied instrumentation. The Decemberists produce rich, evocative arrangements; and they incorporate elements from different genres, producing a sound that’s uniquely theirs.

They released their debut EP 5 Songs in 2001, followed by their full-length debut Castaways and Cutouts in 2002. They released praised albums Her Majesty the Decemberists and Picaresque on Kill Rock Stars. Drummer John Moen joined, solidifying the lineup. In 2006, they moved to Capitol Records and released The Crane Wife. The band continued to produce notable albums, such as The Hazards of Love (2009) and the commercially popular The King Is Dead (2011).

The Decemberists’ latest double album, As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again, continues their tradition of storytelling and musical experimentation. The record features intricate compositions and thematic depth, showcasing the band’s commitment to pushing creative boundaries while retaining their distinctive identity. The record is produced by lead-singer Colin Meloy and Tucker Martine and features guest appearances from The Shins’ James Mercer and REM’s Mike Mills so is absolutely a Decemberists sounding album. Longtime fans will really enjoy this album as I feel it does touch back to The Decemberists earliest records with song structure, engagement and memorable choruses.

The Decemberists have continually expanded their musical range, integrating diverse influences like ’70s progressive rock and modern indie styles. Over the years, they have experimented with different production techniques and collaborative approaches, which has kept their music fresh and dynamic. I like how As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again feels familiar with this entire batch of new songs.

Key songs on As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again include “All I Want Is You,” a simple, emotionally potent love song featuring finger-picked guitar, muted horns, and light vocal harmonies. “Burial Ground” that revives the band’s familiar folk-rock sound, with Meloy’s buoyant vocals singing about graveyards over twinkling instrumentation. The track features loose guitar and horn flourishes, evoking a Beach Boys-style vibrancy. “Joan In The Garden” closes the record and is a 19-minute prog rock epic track that still shows the band’s ambition and versatility. Colin Meloy’s songwriting remains a cornerstone of the band’s appeal, with lyrics that weave intricate stories and vivid imagery, reflecting on themes of history, mythology, and personal introspection. His ability to craft compelling narratives within each song continues to resonate deeply with listeners.

Thomas Wilde
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