Let's just get this out in the open. The Decemberists are a pretentious band. Hell, it's the best part about them, since they are unabashedly so. They were the perennial college rock band, with songs that felt more like short stories than music. Literary illusions and big words you need to look up in the dictionary, that's their wheelhouse. College me loved it, especially Picaresque. But somewhere along in their past two albums I just stopped listening. It wasn't the same, and they didn't feel the same. It felt exhausting and dense rather than whimsical and baroque.
So I'm glad to say I enjoyed their latest album, and not because it's a return to form. No, no, no. In fact, the album journeys far from their old encyclopedia-like selves. Instead, it gets rather personal. Instead a musical soliloquy about a mariner's revenge, we get the surprisingly simple musings of Colin Meloy's own actual non-fictional life. It's actually kinda refreshing, but will no doubt alienate some fans. But I'm glad they're taking the chance. Yes in many ways they are sounding an awful lot like many other indie bands, but at least a good one. It's a step. No destination yet, but they're going somewhere. I hope they get there.