Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy's songs are wrapped in such twisted dark scenarios, they make Morrissey's outlook on life seem positively utopian. But he makes it all go down easily, thanks to clever twists of phrase, strong melodic hooks, and a musical palette that includes everything from pop, country, and folk to sea shanties and alt-rock. This career-spanning record features 20 tracks compiled from last year's tour in support of The King Is Dead, finding commonality among everything Meloy throws out there — like the R.E.M. influences of "Down by the River" and "We Both Go Down," which give way to the pedal-steel-guided "Rise to Me" and the epic "The Crane Wife." It all ends with "I Was Meant for the Stage," a declaration of Meloy's proper place in the world. — John Patrick Gatta
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.