• "We set to sail on the clipper that's bound for South Australia.
  • The weather's warm there, the natives are dark and nubile.
  • But if you listen quiet, you can hear the footsteps on the cross-trees:
  • The ghosts of sailors passed, their spectral bodies clinging to the shrouds."

- Colin Meloy, 'Shanty for the Arethusa' - 2003.

The good ship Decemberists first set sail from the deciduous, emerald harbour of Portland, Oregon, in the earliest months of this, the 21st century. Its cargo - both on departure and across its 15-year voyage - a smorgasbord of spice (nautical epics, cautionary tales of lust and debauchery) and sweet (ballads of loves lost at sea or deep underground, or simply places long remembered); a hold populated by a cavalcade of characters lonesome ('Leslie Anne Levine'), mischievous ('Billy Liar') and tragic (The Crane Wife).

Stowed away under its creaky decks and tattered, worn sails, lies a bountiful treasure - diverse and rich in secrets - amassed across early plunderings (Castaways and Cutouts, 2002; Her Majesty the Decemberists, 2003; Picaresque, 2005), periods of wild ambition (The Crane Wife, 2006; The Hazards of Love, 2009), and times of refined, assured simplicity (The King Is Dead, 2011).

Ahead of the vessel - captained since its inception by Montanian skipper, Colin Meloy - returning with its latest pillaging, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, we present to you a brief dissect of the ship's manifest. Peak out through your blindfold to find a world whose air is thick with incense, cardamom and myrrh. Breathe it in.

Manifest:


Spice:

I - Packets Full of Spice, Rum and Tea Leaves: The Nautical Epics

'Shanty for the Arethusa' - Her Majesty the Decemberists, 2003

'The Infanta' - Picaresque, 2005

'The Island (Come And See, The Landlord's Daughter, You'll Not Feel the Drowning)' - The Crane Wife, 2006

II - Through the Beacon Street: Tales of Lust and Debauche

'A Cautionary Song' - Castaways and Cutouts, 2002

'We Both Go Down Together' - Picaresque, 2005


Sweet:

III - A Letter for Me: Ballads for Lost Lovers

'From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)' - Picaresque, 2005

'Sleepless' - Dark was the Night, 2009

IV - By the Old Main Drag: Places Long Remembered

'Down by the Water' - The King is Dead, 2011

'Los Angeles, I'm Yours' - Her Majesty the Decemberists, 2003


The Crew:

V - Our Ship's Sole Survivors: A Motley Cast

'Leslie Anne Levine' - Castaways and Cutouts, 2002

'Billy Liar' - Her Majesty the Decemberists, 2003

'The Crane Wife 3' - The Crane Wife, 2006