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The Decemberists - The Crane Wife CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

3.99 | 163 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars And all the stars were crashing 'round as I laid eyes on what I found As a band rising in popularity across the board, The Decemberists have been gaining gradually more attention for their intricate stories, heart-wrenching melodies, and overall musical prowess. It was these captivating qualities that led me to look in to this band. I always found their music somewhat enjoyable, but it was the 2006 release The Crane Wife which truly embodied all of the reasons why this band is amongst the top makers of modern music. The perfection of all aspects of their music, from voice to instruments to lyrics, makes this album an undeniable masterpiece.

This album is a collection of songs with two epics for centerpieces. Both musically surpass the majority of not just the band's own catalouge, but most music made from that year. After the lush and inviting acoustic piece, intro "Crane Wife 3" the listener is whisked away from pastoral beauty to the urgent melody which entails "The Island." Over the next twelve and a half minutes, a three part suite comprises "The Island" and is probably one of several highs on the album. The intro to the song echoes of influences from The Strawbs, Pink Floyd, and King Crimson (think "Easy Money"). The lyrics describe the setting of a pristine island which I believe is akin to Shakespeare's "The Tempest." However, this is when one is almost forced to realize the power which is held in the voice of frontman, Colin Meloy, as he croons the sad tale that the song emcompasses. Also, this is certainly the best guitar and keyboard performance on the albums as the pieces are played to perfection. The conception that The Decemberists are "just some other indie band" are almost certainly shattered by the impressive keyboard lines of middle section, "The Landlord's Daughter." This frantic procession of energetic instruments paired with the soaring vocals find resolve in the final of the three sections of "The Island" which is the acoustic cool-down of the majesty that had occured.

The next two songs, "Yankee Bayonet" and "Oh Valencia" are the two simpler songs on the album. However, don't let the lack of overall musical complexity fool you, the same craftiness and prowess is portrayed here as much as the more sweeping of the tunes. Both are alike in that the emphasis is on melody and storytelling. "Yankee Bayonet" tells the story of a solider in the American Civil War communicating with his pregnant wife from beyond the grave, and features superb vocals from Meloy and Laura Veirs. "O! Valencia" is the first single off the album and was obviously chosen due to its unforgettable melody. However, the casual listener fails to recognize the "Romeo and Juliet"-like story of of two rivals, one who loves the other's sister in a gunfight and the brother shoots the sister, resulting in huge emotional conflict. This tension is mirrored in the song, but in a way that it does not interfere with its upbeat nature. Even more memorable is the extended video for the song, which involves love, betrayal, and murder, which juxtapose the upbeat song on which it is modeling.

The next general wave of songs keep up the consistancies of amazing melodies in both voice and instruments. The majority of the section keeps up a strong Jethro Tull influence, and are alike in the weight of the lyrics equal to the music. The music is captivating and time generally flies because of the driving rhythms of "The Perfect Crime #2" and "When the War Came." The album hits a bit of a snag with "Shankill Butchers," a downright eerie tale centering around an Anti-Catholic murdering group from Ireland and the mood is generally brooding as opposed to the rest of the album's optimistic despair. This contrasting mood is shown well in the soaring "Summersong" which presents simultaneously the beauty of summer and love and darker images like dead sailors and everything getting swallowed by waves. This pleasant track is marked by its mellow nature and could be used as a welcome mode of joyful relaxation at any time.

The overall "meat" of the album is contained in the next track "The Crane Wife 1&2" which, paired with the opening song, outlines the story from which the album gets its name. Basically, a man finds a sick crane on his doorstep and he nurses it back to health. Then, a woman appears in a similar fashion and she falls in love with the man and makes clothes of beautiful silk. Next, the man sees the crane weaving its feathers in to the silk and at this discovery, the man looses his crane and the wealth that it created. Over the eleven minute track, both the story and instruments are astounding, but it is the vocal melodies that take presence and capture the overall emotion that the album holds. The Decemberists have always been exceptionally powerful in slow, lingering ballads, but this one tops all others. Meloy delivers with a pitch-perfect performance and generally captivates the listener and lulls him or her in to the world of this Japanese folk tale and allows them to experience all that this tale and the band's musical interpretation has to offer. This song alone is truly not to be missed by any fan of music.

"Sons and Daughters" signals a return to the "optimistic despair" with lyrics signaling a greater hope and the music releflecting the positive shift after the heavy emotion of "The Crane Wife 1&2." I wholeheartedly recommend this album to people who appriciate melodic storytelling with a strong progressive tinge that seeps into the creative forces that make music. This album is sure to impress those who seek comfort or relaxation in music, but do not wish to sacrifice skill or musicianship to find such a comfortable musical fit. Overall, the way in which The Decemberists display such phenominal melodic workings tied with highly skilled musicians and a voice that constistantly provides memorable melodies leads me to give this album the rating of an essential masterpiece of progressive music.

moreitsythanyou | 5/5 |


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