The Hazards of Love – The Decemberists
It is October and the Fall season is showing up around here. Leaves change color, and as air becomes colder and colder you start seeing geese thinking about leaving this place once again. So… most things change and it is not hard to imagine the beauty behind it. Others though, remain and multiply its greatness with time, showing sides that you missed on the first round. This is for sure what has happened this year with “The Hazards of Love” album from The Decemberists.
I am proud to say that I heard the album via NPR’s web cast during its initial release at SXSW on March 2009. Here, the Portland band decided to release for the first time this 17-part narrative as their newest album. As their 2009 project, The Hazards of Love has put The Decemberists as one of the top players in the indie-alternative movement.
As always, their lyrics are deliberately difficult to follow, and trying to apply a direct meaning to them is a useless effort. The anachronistic references in their music have become their obsession to the point that The Hazards of Love is in fact a collection of delicate motifs found recurrently in folk songs since the sixties. This album tells the story of Margaret and William, who in fact, represent the common star/lovers archetype depicted as characters in countless old folk songs. Their music is accompanied by highly literate lyrics filled with innumerable references from the old-British folk revival movement. The album has a deep theatrical influence and includes multiple appearances from key contemporary musicians. Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, alternately voice the main character, Margaret. Other contributions to the album include Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Robyn Hitchcock, which simply take this album to the masterpiece level.
The Hazards of Love depicts our epic struggle to find love. A story that everyone can easily relate to. It often seems as a matter of time for us to conquer happiness and to reach our loved one. But the album remind us about all the obstacles on our way, those that prevent us to find our Margaret or William. At the same time, it depicts the immense reward after we get closer, after we know we have reached the one person you were looking for.
But this is not a pure folk album, or simply a good one. The Decemberists take a heavy British folk baseline and decorate it with multiple synthesizers, guitars and percussions, imprinting a verging hard rock taste to it. Without a doubt this has become one of my favorite albums of this year, and one that I will be listening to for years to come.
Finally, as I said at the beginning, The Hazards of Love is not the first display of greatness from The Decemberists. This is their fifth full-length release and their 2006 album The Crane Wife, was named best album of the year by NPR's All Songs Considered. It certainly seems that ageing keeps improving the band, raising the bar in an ambitious manner for new emerging bands, something that will benefit us all.
The Decemberists also played at ACL (Saturday October 3) this year. I honestly hope the MUSICAL SOULMATE guys attending had the chance to see them live.
Their May 2009 show at KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic
And a vid from their presentation at SXSW