What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World Image
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77

Generally favorable reviews - based on 31 Critics What's this?

User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 43 Ratings

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  • Summary: The seventh studio release for the Oregon indie band led by Colin Meloy was produced by Tucker Martine.
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Top Track

Make You Better
I want you, thin fingers I wanted you, thin fingernails And when you bend backwards I wanted you, I needed you, ohh To make me better I'll love you... See the rest of the song lyrics
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31
  1. Jan 26, 2015
    84
    What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World explores a much wider range of topics than their previous literature/storyline-bound themes could have possibly covered, and the result is hands down the most emotive release of The Decemberists’ career.
  2. Jan 20, 2015
    80
    Maybe because Meloy is now a published author (he's penned a trilogy of popular children's books), his songwriting wit seems to have grown sharper and less showoff-y.
  3. Jan 22, 2015
    80
    The songs on What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, produced by long-time collaborator Tucker Martine, are more intimate and personal than some of the early Decemberists narrative songs.
  4. Apr 9, 2015
    78
    What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World isn't a concept LP or any kind of statement of higher purpose. Instead, it simply illuminates the Decemberists' inviolate strengths.
  5. Jan 20, 2015
    75
    For now, it’s a record that gets better with each listen, a present-day anomaly. It’s the sound of a band unafraid of taking chances, and succeeding more often than not.
  6. Jan 20, 2015
    70
    The stripped-down songs on Terrible World--guitar-driven variations on God-fearing gospel ("Carolina Low") and Laurel Canyon country ("Lake Song")--are its best. After years of extravagance, dressing down turns out to be The Decemberists' strong suit.
  7. Feb 17, 2015
    40
    Always professional, but rarely memorable, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, much like its fudge of a title, ultimately balances out as a fairly middling work.

See all 31 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 8
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 8
  3. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. Jun 28, 2015
    10
    Okay, everything that's been said is absolutely true and correct -- this is no Hazards of Love or the Tain. The D's have done the AmericanaOkay, everything that's been said is absolutely true and correct -- this is no Hazards of Love or the Tain. The D's have done the Americana and sailors who's mothers were virgin prostitutes thing too many times. King is Dead was a sell-out to commercial success. It's latish in the career of a band with such an idiosyncratic sound. There's nothing really new here. For all these reasons and many more, this album should be forgettable, or serviceable, or disappointing. And YET-- somehow Colin has managed to distill everything the band has done (and yes, a whole lot of Tarkio, too), and get it exactly right this time. The simple instrumentations work. The daring to make fun of boy bands' relationship to their fans, to study oral sex in the 19th century, to try to respond to the magnitude of the tragedy of Newtown, and to remember teen loves that went away but never went away...all blended together...WORKS. The record is a masterpiece. It is the perfect distillation of everything the band has tried to do for years, hidden behind a poppy structure guaranteed to piss off fans of the prog and pretension and history. When Colin sings "we had to change, some", he hesitates, as if to emphasize the "some". He seems to understand that, like a great painter, art can be worked and reworked in shifting styles until the artist hits upon perfect. Ignore your preconceptions. Put away everything you wanted to hear. And turn this up loud, and listen. Years from now, I suspect, you will still be listening. Dark Side of the Moon was considered a letdown and a mess when it was released, too. We know better. Expand
  2. Jan 23, 2015
    10
    Another triumph for the Decemberists. Lovely songs, love-ly rendered. Colin Meloy still has the most amazing facility with the EnglishAnother triumph for the Decemberists. Lovely songs, love-ly rendered. Colin Meloy still has the most amazing facility with the English language. I mean, would we know what palanquin means if it weren't for Colin Meloy? As for the songs, or "tracks," as the kids say these days, I commence. Don't know if Cavalry Captain is supposed to be ironic, but it's easy on the ears. Leaving Philomena to the listeners own imagination. . . moving along please . . . Make You Better is a delight. The duo that follows, Lake Song and Till the Water's All Long Gone are simply beautiful. The spartan ring of Carolina Low and the evocative wording of Mistral are as pleasing as anything on that rollicking, heady album of theirs, Picaresque, with its amazing The Bagman's Gambit. A Beginning Song rounds out the collection with a ponderous profundity with which I am most pleased. OK, enough alliteration. Colin and the band ask if they've grown enough to keep our allegiances. My answer is a resounding yes! Expand
  3. Jan 25, 2015
    9
    This album is solid all around. The Decemberists have returned back to their usual sound after the last two departure albums. It seems thatThis album is solid all around. The Decemberists have returned back to their usual sound after the last two departure albums. It seems that they've picked up a few new elements to their sound along the way. It meanders a bit in the second half, with a couple tracks that I've found to be forgettable. There are not many headliner tracks, but that's ok. It's all around solid music that reflects the band's skill.

    I'm glad they're back, I hope for a follow up album soon.
    Expand
  4. Sep 6, 2018
    8
    Worthy successor of The King is Dead. The first part of the album contains several of the best songs of the band and although it gest lost aWorthy successor of The King is Dead. The first part of the album contains several of the best songs of the band and although it gest lost a little towards the end the album maintains solidity and good music. Expand
  5. Jan 20, 2015
    8
    The Decemberists once again proved themselves to be an incredbly competent group of musicians, rebounding from their four-year hiatus with allThe Decemberists once again proved themselves to be an incredbly competent group of musicians, rebounding from their four-year hiatus with all the energy of a newly-formed group.

    While there are not as many headliner tracks as on The Crane Wife or Picaresque, "The Singer Addresses His Audience", "Cavalry Captain", "Philomena", "Make You Better", "Carolina Low", "Don't Wake the Baby", and "A Beginning Song" are amazing works of songwriting and performance. The resonating finale of the opening track will top the list of the Decemberists' greatest musical moments, and the playful Philomena (along with the Lake Song) are a charmingly wistful recollection of the innocence and depravity of youth.

    The second half of the album drags a bit, but each song is still a delight. Even the occasionally awkward "The Wrong Year", "Easy Come, Easy Go" and "Mistral", which don't quite fit the Decemberists' style, are still fun to bop around to. As mentioned, "Carolina Low" and "Better Not Wake the Baby" are a great pair of dark Americana. Despite their great sound, the lyrics on both are not Colin's best. And that transition...

    Of final note is the final track, entitled "A Beginning Song" in a little bit of Decemberists irony (Remember, this is the band who named their six-track debut EP "Five Songs). With a "warm jet" of guitar that Brian Eno would love, a heavy Nashville drum, and a handful of electroacoustic sounds, this song looks both forward and back.

    Colin Meloy sings, "I am hopeful, should I be hopeful?", which is a question many are asking when they hear these 40-year-old indie rockers make their return. While few songs from this album will make anybody's top ten lists, it's absolutely a solid album and a triumphant return by the Decemberists.
    Expand
  6. Mar 13, 2015
    7
    I rated this album a 7 considering it is a good album, but forgettable. I had listened to this about 3 full times and give singular songs aI rated this album a 7 considering it is a good album, but forgettable. I had listened to this about 3 full times and give singular songs a listen now and then and i like every song off of the album, but here is the issue the song's are forgettable. The Wrong Year, A Beginning Song, And Make You Better. Great Song's and then when i hear the rest i am like "oh yeah that was a great song. When you make an album you want people to cherish an album mostly for all the song and if i forget about the song's and start to not give a **** about them...that's bad. All in All it's an average album that has some pretty catchy tracks and has a good amount of songs (14) and length (53 Minutes), but isn't something i would purchase. Expand
  7. May 28, 2015
    7
    More than a decade from their breakthrough and Colin Meloy hasn’t run out of subject matter yet. “Terrible/Beautiful…” continues hisMore than a decade from their breakthrough and Colin Meloy hasn’t run out of subject matter yet. “Terrible/Beautiful…” continues his intriguing lyricism with a musical diversity that shows the Portland band are as relative as ever.

    No outstanding tunes, but there’s a hearteningly perverse determination to investigate new ideas in their own inimitable style
    Expand

See all 8 User Reviews

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