March 06, 2009

The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love

The Decemberists
photo: Autumn DeWilde

Are The Decemberists able to deliver again? The Portland band upped the ante with The Crane Wife, a album that was nearly smothered to death with praise by every music publication on planet Earth. The Hazards of Love is yet another concept album, that musical gesture that supposedly killed by punk around 1977. Since the members of The Decemberists hadn't even been born then, they are happily unaware of that fact and main man Colin Meloy set himself to composing the tale of a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal; her lover, William; a forest queen; and a cold-blooded, lascivious rake. The album’s first half was written in order, one song after another. “Then it got harder, once I was imposing a narrative on it,” says Meloy. “It’s fun to toy with little suites when you don’t have to fully develop them, but I’m used to keeping things open-ended.” They road tested some of the songs in 2008, with Colin Meloy sneaking them in into his solo shows.

Al little louder than the last one The Decemberists have donned an early seventies folk rock costume. With two additional singers in two for for the female characters (Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden), this album is The Decemberists most ambitious yet. Add guest appearances by My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Robyn Hitchcock, and the Spinanes' Rebecca Gates, and the album could have gone under all the heavy-handedness, high-brow lyrics and recurring musical themes. As it stands, the songs have a lightness that belies the tragedy (and revenge) hiding under the gentle melodies. A Fall album that sounds like Spring.

The world live premiere is at Stubb's BBQ, Austin, TX, March 18. The American tour kicks off at Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, May 19.

The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love

The Hazards of Love is released on Capitol Records. Release date: March 24.

  1. Prelude
  2. The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone)
  3. A Bower Scene
  4. Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
  5. The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)
  6. The Queen’s Approach
  7. Isn’t it a Lovely Night?
  8. The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid
  9. An Interlude
  10. The Rake’s Song
  11. The Abduction of Margaret
  12. The Queen’s Rebuke / The Crossing
  13. Annan Water
  14. Margaret in Captivity
  15. The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)
  16. The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)
  17. The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)

MP3: The Decemberists - The Rake's Song


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