Margaret enters the taiga. She falls in love with William, a shape-shifter. Little does Margaret know an evil forest queen and a treacherous rake plan her and William’s demise. This is not a dime-store paperback. It’s the plot of The Decemberists’ new album, The Hazards of Love.
The British folk revival of the ’60s inspired frontman Colin Meloy to make this masterful concept album. Each track is a chapter in Margaret and William’s love affair.
While casual listeners may not find the album as immediate as The Crane Wife or Picaresque, devout Decemberists fans will notice the band’s strengths of clever storytelling and incredible instrumentation emphasized on The Hazards of Love.
The Decemberists enlist some outside support to flesh out their narrative. Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond voices Margaret and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond voices the queen.
Aside from being an immensely strong album, The Hazards of Love is even more admirable for its attempt to resurrect the ancient art of listening through a record’s entirety.
It’s not possible to fully appreciate the magnitude of the album’s ideas as well as the engaging changes in tone and narration without taking it all in. This novella of a record rewards repeated spins and close readings that reveal more each time.
I’m hesitant to recommend individual tracks because it takes away from this album’s experience. But, there are some standouts, including: “The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid,” “The Rake’s Song,” “Annan Water” and “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned).” They’re even better within the context of the story.
So, give this outstanding entry into The Decemberists’ poetically literate catalogue an attentive listen.
You can stream the whole album at Entertainment Weekly.
~ Mike Estabrook