The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love Album Review

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[rating:79/100]

Whenever I listen to The Decemberists I can’t help but wish the album was accompanied with Spark Notes.Even though I’ve read a book or two in my time, sometimes I wonder what Colin Meloy really means when he sings, for example, “the prettiest whistles won’t wrestle the thistles undone.”Or what swans/cranes symbolize in his lyrics.From what I understand, the songs in their latest LP, The Hazards of Love, tell the story of Margaret (sung by Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark) and William (Meloy).More specifically their love story that is, well, hazardous because there is a “jealous forest queen” (My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden) involved.

Admittedly, I am a huge fan of The Decemberists, but when I first began listening to The Hazards of Love I was having difficulty absorbing it.For starters, it’s a lengthy album, which isn’t uncommon for them.With 17 tracks, the entire album spans almost a full hour.I’m not complaining though, just warning those who have yet to listen to it that they’re in for quite a journey and will likely need to listen a few times to take it all in.With all that said and done, once you do, I hope that, like me, you’ll be in an awe of sorts.I mean, did you ever think you’d hear a Decemberist’s song described as “hard rock.”This alone was enough to shock and excite me.

Although the album sounds different than some of their older work, it’s still extremely characteristic of the band.For starters, there are significantly more female vocals that play the roles of the aforementioned Margaret and “jealous forest queen.”Then there are the elements of psychedelic/hard rock sprinkled throughout many of the songs.I honestly can’t say there are any songs that I absolutely despise or can’t listen to.Well, except for the almost entirely silent opening track.However, it is one of those albums that almost has to be listened to from beginning to end.Picking and choosing songs from it is a difficult task and we all know how much our generation loves to hand pick songs from albums rather than enjoy them in their entirety.

I want to say that I absolutely love “Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid.”It is hands down my favorite track off the album.When Meloy sings “oh the wanting comes in waves” and there is a wave of female vocals in the background singing, “ooh” I feel like I’m soaring on a wave.Seriously.You might not feel the same listening to that part but I’m sure you have songs of your own that make you feel this way.If you do feel the same way, you’ll be happy to know this part is repeated again later in the album.Plus, it reminds me a lot of The Arcade Fire and that’s an automatic 73 points towards overall sound in my book (not to mention Shara Worden’s contribution to the song).

The first song we all heard off the album was “The Rake’s Song.”When I first heard it I was slightly disappointed.But as I listened to it more and more I found that every time it comes on I can’t help but start shaking my head to the rhythm.As the song progresses it becomes almost a fun little dance number you could really let loose to during a live performance (or while alone in your car).Plus, the song is about killing off his “three little pests” after his wife dies giving birth to their fourth child—doesn’t get much better than that.Well, except for “Annan Water.”This is one of those characteristic Decemberist’s songs—stripped down with only Meloy’s awesome vocals.

There aren’t too many bands that can write songs that can conjure images of olden days, then suddenly wake you from your daydream with distorted guitars and get away with it.Overall The Hazards of Love is an extremely entertaining, well casted and well written album regardless of whether or not you follow the story.I’m waiting for the day it hits Broadway.