Listen to this track by Portland Oregon indie-folk paragons The Decemberists. It’s “Make You Better”, the new single off of the upcoming album What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World, due out on January 20. The record and single is a return to the field after a rest since 2011’s The King Is Dead.
Side projects ensued during the planned hiatus period, including singer Colin Moloy’s series of Wildwood books, which he creates with his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis. But, a return to the Decemberist fold was always in the cards. As you can tell, it was worth the wait.
The Decemberists have spanned the spectrum between indie rock and folk rock. With this tune, you can hear that folk-influence seeped into the melody itself, kind of in the same spirit of, say, Billy Bragg who reaches for a similar spirit as what you’re hearing here. As always with Moloy’s writing, there is a sense of the enormity of things found here as well as being a down to earth pop song. Thematically, the album reflects Moloy’s experiences with parenthood, getting older, and with some of the shocking events of the past year, including the Newtown School shootings. Musically speaking, this song is certainly a movement toward taking the epic nature (in the literary sense of the word) of the band’s excursions into folk textures and feel, and matching it seamlessly with radio-friendly chart music.
I suppose that might smart a bit with their fanbase, having to share their band with a wider audience. That’s a common love story arc for many a fan. But, good music cannot be denied for long, nor can any artist worth their salt make their art into a walled garden to be preserved for all time. Even if the musical backdrop is accessible, the narrative is still full of twists and turns, voiced by one who loves “a perfect paramour” in vain. In that sense, this isn’t an easy song, ready made for the masses., even if that love story is common, too; when one seeks love as a cure-all, placing that unfair burden on another.
For more information about The Decemberists and about their new album, well, that’s easy! Just go to decemberists.com.
And for more on Colin Moloy and his side projects as an author and solo artist, check out colinmoloy.com.