The Decemberists
The Hazards Of Love


4.5
superb

Review

by Eric USER (161 Reviews)
March 21st, 2009 | 31 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It becomes pretty apparent that this isn't The Decemberists we know and love. No, this is much better.

The Decemberists are an odd band, to say the least. In the indie world, they have achieved a lofty level of recognition, mostly due to their tendencies towards unique and eccentric songs. Instantly recognizable, their subdued and passive instrumentation develops behind intricate tales of sea adventures and lost love. Personally, I’ve always been more inclined to use their previous releases Picaresque and The Crane Wife as background music. Not boring and not very engaging, I’ve always considered The Decemberists to fit perfectly as what I call “secondary music”- background music for another task that’s a little more absorbing. Then comes The Hazards of Love. The Decemberists' ambition got the best of them, and they undertook a concept album; while at the same time perfecting their lovable, disharmonious, awkward trademark sound.

The Hazards of Love was inspired by an English folk artist, Anne Briggs, and her EP of the same name. A full 17 tracks outline the intricacies of a story chock-full with love, loss, royalty, and downfall, in an almost Shakespearean drama. The concept is complete with characters, William (Colin Meloy, Decemberists), Margaret (Becky Stark, Lavender Diamond), and many more.

The plot is full of twists and quirks. Colin/William spends the first four tracks delineating the nature of his dilemma. While “The Hazards of Love I” can get repetitive and tiresome, it’s necessary for setting up the plot. “A Bower Scene” follows, complete with power chords. Two tracks in, it becomes apparent that this isn’t your regular Decemberists album. No, this is much better. Though, this is only the beginning. William’s love, Margaret, is introduced to the listener in this passionate, powerful song. With “Won’t Want For Love (Margaret In The Taiga),” we get a glimpse of one of The Decemberists best new innovations- the addition of a female vocalist. Stark and Meloy’s back-and-forth vocals work perfectly to improve and expand on the mood of the song. The Hazards of Love flows very well through the next few tracks.

Now, we arrive at The Hazards of Love main attractions, “The Rake Song” and “The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid,” separated by the Interlude. While this album has its share of highlights, they are eclipsed by this pair of gems. “The Wanting…” starts out like The Decemberists we know and love, then one of my favorite guitar riffs I’ve heard this year comes seemingly out of nowhere. Over this, Shara Worden, of My Brightest Diamond, passionately cries out “Consider it your debt repaid.” Because it’s half as long as it’s 6:27 long predecessor, “The Rake Song” is more single material. Raucous and loud (by The Decemberists standards, at least), this song has major replay value.

The major attractiveness of The Hazards of Love is revealed in the second half of the CD. While not all the songs are as meticulously crafted as “The Wanting…” or as explosive as “The Rake Song,” each song has its own personality, its own identity. This is most likely due to the storytelling and the album concept. Though, it’s also in the concept that lays the album’s greatest weakness. I get the sense that some songs, such as “Margaret in Captivity” and “The Hazards of Love III” are in place simply for the storyline. The intricate story becomes a chore at times, and the songs a necessary evil.

That being said, the fairytale feels complete by the closing note on “The Hazards of Love IV.” William and Margaret have each other, and drown romantically in the arms of their lover. Though not quite as dramatic, I’m left with a similar sense of contentment. The Decemberists have reached their full potential with this eccentric, elaborate, and passionate “folk opera.” Like drowning on a sinking ship alongside your true love and not being able to ask for anything more, The Hazards of Love leaves you feeling fulfilled and satisfied.

Recommended Tracks:

The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid
The Rake's Song
Annan Water
The Wanting Comes In Waves/Reprise



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user ratings (628)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Caleb McAlpine (5)
Consider it your debt repaid....

Keelan H. EMERITUS (3.5)
The wanting for something better comes in waves....

Nick Butler EMERITUS (4.5)
In no uncertain terms: The Hazards of Love is clearly their best album, and the best of 2009 so far....


Comments:Add a Comment 
SeaAnemone
March 21st 2009


20534 Comments


This seemed a little rushed, so any criticism on the writing portion is appreciated.

The stream is up at...

http://music-mix.ew.com/2009/03/decemberists-st.html

Digging: Pharmakon - Bestial Burden

IAmInsect
March 21st 2009


3800 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album rules

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
March 21st 2009


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the wanting comes in waves is their best songgg

Kiran
Emeritus
March 21st 2009


6001 Comments


want. I went through a point of loving this band, growing tired of this band, then wanting this band again but not being interested in what I'd overlistened to already.

Anthracks
March 21st 2009


3764 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

im about halfway through this and not enjoying it too much really, seems like its a grower though

Digging: Radio Moscow - Magical Dirt

natey
March 21st 2009


4170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

review is quite nice.

Album is rad.

Ahrimanic Trance
March 21st 2009


62 Comments


Crane Wife is the shit, so i am going to check this out.

NICE REVIEW

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
March 21st 2009


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Listening to this album in a few

SeaAnemone
March 22nd 2009


20534 Comments


Gracias, it's definitely a grower. I was planning on rating this around a 3 or 3.5 last week.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
March 22nd 2009


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

is the cover art right? copy my friend bought had a black background

SeaAnemone
March 22nd 2009


20534 Comments


This is the only white one I've seen... I don't know how to change it though???

Anthracks
March 22nd 2009


3764 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i keep expecting 'the wanting comes in waves' to turn into 'o valencia!' or something

jrowa001
March 22nd 2009


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album is awesome indeed.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
March 22nd 2009


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i keep expecting 'the wanting comes in waves' to turn into 'o valencia!' or something



what

karina
March 22nd 2009


165 Comments


what's this unconventional sound the reviewer speaks of??

Athom
Staff Reviewer
March 22nd 2009


17222 Comments


Its nice to see The Decemberists take the heavier sounds from The Tain and roll with it.

thebhoy
Emeritus
March 22nd 2009


4461 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^

agreed, though the Tain got tedious in spots, this is more honed. Listened to the stream all the way through. At the moment I'm mildly impressed, though I think with more time this could become I really great album to me.

timbo8
March 22nd 2009


618 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great great album. This will be a 4 or 4.5 from me

Athom
Staff Reviewer
March 22nd 2009


17222 Comments


they played this in its entirety at SXSW the other day. heres a link for anyone interested http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101397853

CompanionCube
March 22nd 2009


977 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

hah! kilgore trout....i get it
lol ive got an essay due tommorow on that book



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