The Decemberists are known for building albums around elaborate concepts, heady stuff inspired by Japanese folk tales and rock operas. For their latest, they’ve come up with the best one yet: It is “blessedly free of concept,” as frontman Colin Meloy recently told the Guardian. Blessed indeed. “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” is one of the indie-rock band’s most enjoyable and lively efforts in recent memory. It’s the first time in a while where Meloy and his bandmates don’t sound so self-conscious about their craft. Following up 2011’s “The King Is Dead,” which debuted at the top spot on Billboard, their latest loosens Meloy’s grip to explore casual grooves and universal themes in his lyrics. Slackness suits these guys, starting with the opening “The Singer Addresses His Audience,” which swells with a choir and a glorious cacophony of instruments. It’s refreshing, almost novel, to hear an album so at peace with life’s ups and downs, particularly on “Make You Better.” Yes, there is tragedy, but there’s also love, compassion, and hope. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “The Singer Addresses His Audience”
The Decemberists play the House of Blues on April 3.