Background Noise: The Decemberists “The Hazards of Love”March 27, 2009
Allow me to apologize for my abscence. For the past few Friday’s I have been out of town and the rest of my schedule didn’t really give me an opening to squeeze something in. Damn tournament.
In the meantime though I have been able to listen to the new Decemberists album. It is amazing. A massive, epic work of art.
I started listening to The Decemberists shortly after “The Crane Wife” came out. Going back and reading my reaction to that, I can see I was impressed. And still am. It’s a beautiful intimate album that tells some great stories. But by combining (or maybe mixing two seperate stories together, I was never sure) I felt the overall stories in the album was hurt.
“Hazards of Love” is focused. Here we have one story. A fantasy love story about a shape shifting faun that falls in love with a girl and what he goes through to have her, and then save her from a child killer and evil queen. It is a fantasy. I’ve heard people complain about how unrealistic the story is, but when you have a fucking shapeshifter in your tale realism is thrown to the curb.
Like any good musical, or opera if you want to go there, you have themes. What I’m going to dub the Hazards theme is sprinkled throughout the album. It isn’t always the same, sometimes it’s slow or sped up to match the emotion but it fucking rocks. This really caught me off guard and when I realized it I was won over.
The vocals are amazing. Colin Meloy does great work as the hero (and one of the villians) of the story. My only complaint here, and it is minor, is that he uses the same voice for the hero as he does the murderer. I’m pretty sure its not the same person but I could be wrong. It’s is slightly confusing. The two female vocalists, Becky Stark and Shara Worden, do magnificent work in the two female roles. Worden does spectacuarly stunning stuff as the Queen. There is also a children’s choir that comes off just as haunting as it should.
I mentioned how great the hazards theme was above. The music in general is great. The calm interlude before the storm, the breezy “What a Lovely Night” is a nice easy going tune between two lovers. The guitars turn from peaceful and serene to dark and violent at the drop of a button. Feedback is put into the background of some of the darker songs to add to the danger and discomfort. It is extremely well done.
This isn’t an easy album to get into. It took me a few listens to finally figure it all out and I feel like I can still get more out of it. I’m only just starting to recognize the recurring musical movements and such. I’m a little rusty still on the story as well, but I got the overall arch pinned down. I really can’t recommend this enough. Come December you will certainly being seeing this on many top album lists. Jump on it while its still fresh.