08. June 2018 - 19:00 till 23:30
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The Decemberists w/ M. Ward at College Street Music Hall (New Haven) | College Street Music Hall | Friday, 08. June 2018

The Decemberists w/ M. Ward
Friday, June 8th
@ College Street Music Hall (New Haven)
$49 / 7:00pm doors / All Ages
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The Decemberists
"In some ways, this album was four years in the making," says Colin Meloy, frontman and primary songwriter of the Decemberists. "We were on hiatus, so we had all the time we could want, no schedule or tour, no expectations."With the ability to work at their own pace, the resulting record, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, is the band's most varied and dynamic work, both musically and emotionally. Since their earliest recordings more than a decade ago, the Decemberists have always been known for their sense of scope and daring—from "The Tain," an eighteen-and-a-half minute 2004 single based on an Irish myth to their last two ambitious, thematic albums, The Hazards of Love and The King is Dead. This time, though, Meloy explains that they took a different approach: "Let's make sure the songs are good, and eventually the record will present itself." The Decemberists—Meloy, Chris Funk (guitars), Jenny Conlee (keyboards), Nate Query (bass), and John Moen (drums)—had announced that they would be taking a break when their touring cycle finished following the release of 2011's The King is Dead. Meloy wanted to spend time with his family and work on the children's book series that became the acclaimed, best-selling Wildwood trilogy. To be sure, they had reached a new peak in their career: King entered the Billboard album charts at Number One, and the track "Down by the Water" was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Rock Song" during the hiatus, the group remained visible: they released an EP of outtakes from the album titled Long Live the King; contributed the song "One Engine" to the Hunger Games soundtrack; and put out We All Raise Our Voices to the Air, a live album documenting their ferocious intensity on stage. They even had the honor of appearing in animated form on The Simpsons, and performed on the season six finale of Parks and , however, Meloy was concentrating on the Wildwood series—the 1,500-page saga of two seventh-graders who are drawn into a hidden, magical forest,illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis. So when the band reassembled in May 2013, the plan wasn't to make an album in their usual way."Typically we book four or five weeks in the studio and bang out the whole record," says Meloy. "This time, we started by just booking three days, and didn'tknow what we would record. There was no direction or focus; we wanted to just see what would come out. We recorded 'Lake Song' on the first day, live, and then two more songs in those three days. And the spirit of that session informed everything that came after."

They reconvened in the fall and added some more songs. Gradually, over the course of a year and a half, the album came into focus. What was initially apparent was a fuller, richer sound. "There was a grandiosity to the songs in different ways," says Meloy, citing Leonard Cohen's 1977 collaboration with Phil Spector, Death of a Ladies' Man, as a reference point. "We were layeringtextures, adding strings and dedicated backing vocals—the early songs created the peaks of the record, and that started to dictate the overall tone and tenor."The first batch of songs, Meloy notes, represented the more personal side of his songwriting, a change from the strong narrative thrust that characterized much of the Decemberists' work. "Writing books as this raw, fantastic narrator has been the outlet for that part of my brain," he says. "Having a family, having kids, having this career, getting older—all of these things have made me look more inward. So some of these songs are among the more intimately personal songs I've ever written."Perhaps most notable is "12-17-12," a song named for, and inspired by, the date that President Obama addressed the nation following the Newtown school shootings, and read the names of the victims. "I watched that speech and was profoundly moved," says Meloy. "I was hit by a sense of helplessness, but also the message of 'Hold your family close,' and this was my way of marking that for myself." This bewildering, conflicted feeling came out in a phrase near the end of the song—"what a terrible world, what a beautiful world"—that gave the album its title.As the sessions continued, other elements of the writing and the sound surfaced and a more rounded picture emerged. "As soon as I finished the books, I immediately started writing more narrative songs," Meloy says. "'Cavalry Captain,' 'Carolina Low,' those all started coming out. But there was a more subtle voice coming in; I wanted moments of levity, a little tongue-in-cheek. Also, we figured out that the big, pop sound we were making would also make the quieter moments more still, create more dynamic peaks and valleys."Without a deadline, the Decemberists were also able to explore every song to completion. "Usually you have to let some songs slide because of time constraints," Meloy says, "but nothing was relegated to the b-side pile, everything was given a fair shake. Which is a blessing and a curse—we ended up with 18 songs, and each had champions and detractors. There were a multitude of albums you could potentially make—somber, over-the-top pop, folk—and I think every band member would have created a different record."Ultimately, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World found its final form, a distillation of the best things about this remarkable band. A new way of working led to a renewed excitement about the next chapter for the Decemberists. "I've never lived with a record for so long," says Colin Meloy, "documenting my shifts

and changes as a songwriter, with a real sense of time passing. And there's something very freeing about working on music with absolutely no agenda, and just letting the songs become themselves."
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M. Ward
M. Ward returns with a stunning new album, More Rain, for release on Merge Records on March 4, 2016. Ward has released a string of acclaimed solo albums over the past several years, along with five LPs with Zooey Deschanel as She & Him and a 2009 collaborative album with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis under the moniker Monsters of Folk. In addition to his celebrated work as a musician, Ward is an accomplished producer, handling those duties for such luminaries as Mavis Staples, Jenny Lewis, and Carlos Forster as well as his own musical projects.

M. Ward knows how to live with rain. Having spent the last decade-and-a-half based in the perennially damp Portland, Oregon, the singer-songwriter and producer has learned how to shine through the soggy gloom by simply embracing its inevitability. For Ward, there is inspiration in a dark sky and harmony in foreboding winds. And with his new album More Rain, he has made a true gotta-stay-indoors, rainy-season record that looks upwards through the weather while reflecting on his past.

“I think one of the biggest mysteries of America right now is this: How are we able to process unending bad news on Page One and then go about our lives the way the style section portrays us?” says Ward. “There must be a place in our brains that allows us to take a bird’s-eye view of humanity, and I think music is good at helping people—myself included—go to that place.”

This album, Ward’s eighth solo affair, finds the artist picking up the tempo and volume a bit from his previous release, 2012’s A Wasteland Companion. Where that record introspectively looked in from the outside, More Rain finds Ward on the inside, gazing out. Begun four years ago and imagined initially as a DIY doo-wop album that would feature Ward experimenting with layering his own voice, it soon branched out in different directions, a move that he credits largely to his collaborators here who include R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Neko Case, k.d. lang, The Secret Sisters, and Joey Spampinato of NRBQ. The result is a collection of upbeat, sonically ambitious yet canonically familiar songs that both propel Ward’s reach and satisfy longtime fans.

More Rain begins with an actual rainstorm, then throughout the album, guitars chime, chug, and riff with Ward’s unmistakable earthy tone, while layers of atmospheric reverb and skittering drums climb and clip in equal measures. As the cloud of noise rolls in, the layers part ever so slightly to make way for Ward’s voice, which can play wispy and whimsical in one moment (“Pirate Dial”) or crackling and smoky in the next (“Time Won’t Wait”) just as well as it can climb to clear-sky clarity (“Confession”) then drop down to smooth, soulful crooning (“I’m Listening”), each one after the other. “Girl From Conejo Valley” is a nostalgic trot through people he used to know and a place he used to be, and “Slow Driving Man” is sweeping and lush in its orchestral climb towards confident heights.

As the album ends with the self-assured swing of “I’m Going Higher,” voices join together in a chorus of rising “ah”s and, for just a second, it seems the storm outside has slowed, making room for a ray of hopeful sunlight. As Ward knows, the rainy season is sure to return, but for now, More Rain is here to help us with our perspective.
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