The Decemberists
As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again

The ninth studio album from The Decemberists, titled As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again, is a thrilling walk through the woods of indie-folk lore that firmly highlights the strengths of the band. The Decemberists recently wrapped a tour that acted as a teaser to the songs that would be on this LP, and the music found on this record translated extremely well to the live setting. The band has never been shy of expanding upon the roots of folk music by adding in rich context to their songs, creating unique characters, and telling vivid stories through their music. Truly the band’s first double album, this particular record puts all of their assets on full display in a marvelous accomplishment of artistic achievement, and it just may be the band’s finest, and most complete work of music to date.

The record launches right into their first single released from the set, “Burial Ground,” that is a fairly straight-forward indie-folk rock song that has a memorable refrain and feels very much enriched in the legacy of The Decemberists. “Oh No!” follows the opener with a Latin-infused anthem that features some well-placed horns paired with some unique percussion to keep interest at a fever pitch for the new material. The vivid storytelling found on “The Reapers” finds lead vocalist Colin Meloy setting the scene in the first verse of, “Early in the evening, when the working is through / And the field’s all in furrows, and there ain’t much to do / Me and my lady, all a-riding did go / As we wait for the reapers to mow,” and the song unfolds with strategic precision as new elements are added into the mix at just the right moments.

Another early standout, “Long White Veil,” is a catchy folk tune that would’ve fit well on any of The Decemberists’ other albums, as it feels authentic to the style that they have perfected over their career. The chorus of, “I married her, I carried her / On the very same day I buried her / In the cemetery plot by her mother / Though she never gave a thought to her mother / But she looked so pale / In that long white veil,” is well-crafted and invites the listener to sing along. The campfire, acoustic bliss of “William Fitzwilliam” features several great harmonies from Meloy and his bandmates to round out the song, while things slow-build to one of the more important tracks on the LP with “Don’t Go to the Woods.” The overall aesthetic of the album packaging is based around this mysterious landscape of the woods, and this track works extremely well in the middle of sequencing to set the right tone for the rest of the record.

”The Black Maria” works as a nice contrast to earlier song of “Long White Veil,” while the tender “All I Want Is You” is a gushing ballad of falling in love with the person you want to spend all of your days with. Late standouts like “Born to the Morning” rock like a late-Beatles catalog track, especially with its experimental sounds added in, and the bouncy “America Made Me” adds in more well-placed horns and instruments much like The Format did so brilliantly on their Dog Problems record. The bass-heavy “Tell Me What’s On Your Mind” is a jazz-infused track that continues to explore The Decemberists’ endless creativity, while “Never Satisfied” unfolds cautiously, bleeding into the 19-minute plus opus of “Joan in the Garden.” After a few minutes of quiet in the sprawling closer, The Decemberists kick into a new gear and rock out in a way that would make Pink Floyd proud.

There is so much to love and enjoy on As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again, and hopefully this alludes to the idea that The Decemberists truly can take their music into the most exciting paths forward. The fans who have been with them since the beginning days, as well as many of the fans they have collected along the way, will surely be ready for the next journey.