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The Decemberists - The Crane Wife CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

3.99 | 161 ratings

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Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars From the moment I first played this album, I knew I was in for a treat. Every song on this album is memorable, enjoyable, and expertly performed, and what it may arguably lack in progressiveness is more than made up for with smart songwriting and unforgettable lyrics. I appreciate the heavy use of the acoustic guitar, and the Celtic feel of the album drew me in at the very first go. The story is an Oriental parable about greed, in which a poor man finds a wounded crane at his doorstep and nurses it back to health. It flies away. Some time later, a mysterious woman appears at his door, and they get married. In poverty, the woman says she will make cloths and sell them, so long as the man does not intrude upon her at anytime. In his greed, the man keeps his wife in a cold room, while she works. Eventually, his curiosity overtakes him, and he peers in. In that cold room is a bleeding crane, plucking its own feathers to make the desired cloths. Upon seeing the man, the crane wife flies away, never to be seen again. I cannot find any real fault with the album.

"The Crane Wife 3" Such a simple three-chord song is actually a quite refreshing way to begin an album so full of intricacies, beautiful words, and unforgettable melodies.

"The Island" The jaunty introduction to the album's longest and most progressive track sounds a great bit like mid-1970's Pink Floyd ("Have a Cigar" actually comes to mind). All three parts are distinct, but flow together very well, and that middle section, "The Landlord's Daughter," just blows me away every time, with its rich tapestry of organ and acoustic guitar. The last part is a melancholic acoustic bit laden with strings and piano.

"Yankee Bayonet (I Will be Home Them)" Another lovely song, and one of my favorites, predominantly on the twelve-string guitar, has light vocals of both male and female. It tells of a man and woman in love separated by the battles of the Civil War.

"O Valencia!" Another pop-rock track, this song is has a great melody and follows a strong chord progression.

"The Perfect Crime #2" Disco-folk, if such a thing existed, would sound a lot like this. It is a funky little pop sound with a satisfying bass groove and gritty electric guitars.

"When the War Came" A heavy repetitive guitar riff creates a solid structure for the amazing vocal melody to sit upon. It's menacing and beautiful all at once, with a heavy, building ending that repeats the first line over and over.

"Shankill Butchers" This dark little ditty sounds like a cautionary tale and reminds me very much of The Tiger Lillies's takes on Heinrich Hoffmann's collection entitled Shockheaded Peter.

"Summersong" A plain song with accordion, has a fine melody and is another fine number, even if unadorned compositionally. This is another piece that would appeal to more pop-rock lovers, perhaps fans of earlier Lifehouse (which includes me).

"The Crane Wife 1 & 2" This second lengthy track is also very simple in terms of structure, but something about the melody makes me think of when I was younger (I do not know why, but I get nostalgic every time- perhaps it is my love of the Celtic rock band Seven Nations). It tells the story in the most detail, and is so beautiful.

"Sons & Daughters" One last two-chord upbeat song full of simple counterpoint vocals and accordion completes the album. That final line resonates with my heart: "Hear all the bombs fade away."

Epignosis | 5/5 |


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