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The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

4.07 | 307 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Story telling in forms other than books and films haven't quite reached the level of quality that these two have been enjoying for years. Telling a story through music in particular can be a feat, especially when having to convey plot and characters in time, and pitched. The Decemberists, however, are not intimidated by this, as proven by their 2009 album The Hazards of Love. While the music takes a back seat to the story, the band manages to tell a compelling and succinct tale.

The plot of The Hazards of Love is the main draw here, and luckily it can hold the album up on its own. If you hadn't already judged by the title, this is a love story, and the troubles that come between a couple. The male lead, Will, is a fawn who lives in the forest who can take the form of a human. The female lead, Margaret, finds Will trapped as a fawn in the forest, and rescues him. The two fall in love, though Will's mother, the Queen, along with her evil Rake assistant, work to prevent the two from being together. The story is well told, has a very logical progression, and a satisfying conclusion. My only complaint with it is the Rake's side story, which doesn't add much, and doesn't pay off nearly as well as the overall story. This doesn't take up a lot of time however, and doesn't detract much from the bigger picture.

A good story is nothing without good story telling, and like the writing, the vocals are one of the strongest points of The Hazards of Love. The singing, in a style similar to Indie-Rock, is great, and very clear, with no words being obscured or made difficult to understand. There are three singers, and each character is personified with a different voice, which makes them distinctive and easy to pick out. There is great interplay between characters, almost becoming dialogue, without getting too formal or wordy. Unfortunately, Will and the Rake are both played by the only male singer, which is disappointing because their voices end up being quite similar, especially when the band makes such an effort to differentiate the other characters. Each character also has a little musical motif that they can be recognized by.

While the vocals and story are the focus of the album, the music is nice at best, but gets repetitive quickly. The lyrics may be Indie, but the music is more folksy. There are a lot of acoustic guitar lines, subtle organ chords, and even some accordion. The music plays along well with the story, being heavy during scenes of conflict, and soft during love scenes. There's nothing awfully complex going on, and most songs only have one or two ideas that are repeated underneath and in between the vocals for a few minutes. The musical themes are very easy to grasp, and you'll recognize them instantly when they pop back up after their introduction. A choice that works in terms of the story telling, but not the music, is the re-use of themes, and even entire sections of music, with new vocals over them. This is neat on the first few listens, and provides a cool mirroring effect, but once the story and music has sunk in, becomes tiring. Though not terribly complex, everything is at least tight and well played.

The music doesn't get in the way of the story telling, but it doesn't propel it much either. As a result, once you've had your fill of the story, there's not a lot of reasons to come back to The Hazards of Love. It's is like a good book, in that it's really good the first or second time through, but you only go back every once in a while after that. Regardless of its longevity, this is a nice album, and if you can find it easily enough, go ahead and experience the story, because it's definitely worth those few listens.

m2thek | 3/5 |


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