May 25, 2009

The Hazards Of Love-The Decemberists

This should have come earlier. But didn't. So now it is here. It is here because "The Hazards Of Love" is easily one of the best albums of 2009. From the first second that I heard the first second of "The Rake's Song" I knew that something special was afoot. And there was. But the reviews. Mixed to say the least. Loved and hated it would seem in equal terms. Why? Too long. Well it is long. Too bombastic. Yes, it's meant to be. Doesn't contain those usual beautiful melodies. What album are these critics listening too. This album, the fifth from The Decemberists, is everything good music should be. Ambitious, dramatic, intense, powerful, magical. Ness A Sary.

So, it's a 'concept' album. A fairly basic story is told over many acts. But it's not the story that matters so much. It's the way the story is told. With flair and drama. With intent and purpose. It's progressive and aggressive. A sure fire winner. But to the story. Margaret (voiced by Becky Stark) falls in love with the shape shifting William (Meloy) in a magical forest. Soon, Margaret is pregnant. Their love is blocked by the Queen (Shara Worden) of the forest. The star crossed couple are also threatened by a twisted, demonic character in the shape of The Rake (also Meloy), who abducts Margaret. William tries to rescue Margaret, crossing Annan Water to do so. On the way back they are trapped and after professing their love to each other, drown in each other's arms. A story about the hazards of love bears fruit as the lovers can not overcome tragedy. But as stated, it is the instruments of voice and guitar that make this adventure so exciting. It is definitely the heaviest album the band have produced. "A Bower Scene" is a short staccato burst, which leads to the dramatic and powerful "Won't Want For Love (Margaret In The Taiga)" which thumps along to the ethereal voice of Stark. Even heavier is "The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid" where Worden absolutely belts out the part of the Queen. Worden is a star on this album, her voice a piercing weapon. The guitar work on this, and many others, by Chris Funk is also something to behold. The darkest and most delicious tale though is "The Rake's Song", which is one of the best songs of this or any year. Macabre and grotesque, this tale of murdered children is fantastically entertaining. But, there are still beautiful quieter moments. "Isn't It A Lovely Night" is sung sweetly and kindly by Stark and Meloy. Meloy also shines on the gorgeous "Annan Water", a song that purely shows off not only the unique wordplay of Colin Meloy, but also his effective and direct vocal capabilities. This is best displayed on the closing tune "The Hazards Of Love (The Drowned)", which opens with a stirring acoustic lead and the comforting voice of Meloy. After all the storm and tempest that has come before this song acts as a come down and a comfort. A reminder that soft or loud The Decemberists are a unique and captivating presence in the world of music.


  • At May 26, 2009 , Blogger Bill said...

    Great review. Couldn't agree more. I love this album.

  • At May 27, 2009 , Anonymous Roshan said...

    I don't have this album yet but am willing to buy it for the cover art alone....what beautiful typography!!


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