Review: The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love

HoLSorry for the long wait, but Mediametric is back up and running and the posts will be a flowin’ in the near future.

The Decemberists have a reputation that precedes them.   Even before their 2006 release of the (indie) smash hit known as The Crane Wife, Colin Meloy and his merry band of sea-shanty enthusiasts, were known as producers of heady and literate music that is chock-full of illusions to books that I have never read.  The Crane Wife, is a tough act to follow as far as I am concerned because I absolutely adore that album for its odd concept and superb execution.  This time around, The Decemberists have given us their latest work The Hazards of Love.  Deemed to be an indie rock opera of sorts, the album definitely is not lacking in ambition.  In fact, compared to The Hazards of Love, The Crane Wife’s concept seems weakly fleshed out and not nearly as cohesive.  Yes, The Hazards of Love is a lot to take in, but is it worth it?
Without going into too many spoilers about the actual plot of the album – figuring it out is half of the fun – the album tells the tale of two lovers that encounter everything from fantastical creatures to evil infanticidal creatures.  There are several stand-out characters throughout the telling of the story.  Meloy, with contributions from Jim James of My Morning Jacket, sings the male characters in the story, while the talented Becky Stark and Shara Worden play the two main female characters.  At times it almost seems that the album, which clocks in at just under an hour could have easily been expound upon into a second disc without seeming long-winded as some of the characters in the tale get precious little development (namely The Rake).  As a concept album and rock opera, The Hazards of Love is running on all cylinders. The album features numerous motifs, often accompanying certain characters signifying their entrance into the story.  The story, when paid close attention to, is extremely well told and easy to follow, and musically the albums songs hold their own as songs and do not just serve as vehicles to drive the plot forward.

The bottom line:  To answer the question above, yes.  This album is most certainly worth the effort it takes to absorb.  This album is easily the best album that The Decemberists have put out and will undoubtedly stand as one of the best albums of the year, but I would go so far as to say that this album is an instant masterpiece which will be getting play time on my stereo for (hopefully) decades to come.

–Ben

The DecemberistsThe Hazards of Love: 9.6 out of 10

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~ by mediametric on August 6, 2009.

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