The Decemberists – The Crane Wife

The decemberistsThere are some groups that just seem to define “indie rock” in it’s full-on, geeky glory. Pavment made a 5-album existence out of being nerdish outsiders. Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo is the poster boy for almost all indie rock guys: he wears glasses, he’s studious (he rested the band for 5 years to study English at Harvard), he sings songs about being crap with girls. The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy is cut from the same cloth, for starters he’s named his band after a group who held a revlot in mid-1800’s Russia. Now he’s gone and written an album loosely based on a Japanese folk tale, which is even more daring as this is the band’s first album on a major label.

But in all honesty, unless you’re the type of person that loves poring over lyric booklets, looking for clues and literary references that’ll give you some deeper insight into the songs, the concept didn’t become apparent during the times I’ve listened to the album. Especially as the three Crane Wife songs are jumbled up. It’s “Crane Wife 3” that opens up the album, it’s delicate at first but soon changes into something that’s almost anthemic, especially when I heard the haunting chorus “I will hang my head/hang my head low”. The sweet duet of Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)” has some of the most descriptive lyrics “you are in the ground with the wolves and weevils” and anothe catchy chorus. “The Perfect Crime #2” is a dramatic departure in sound, as it reminds me of a Talking Heads-esque bassline, but it doesn’t sound like a derivative rip-off.

There’s another change of sound with “When The War Came”, a dark and forboding track that has a chugging guitar line.  “Shankhill Butchers” and “Summersong” are both good but not as strong as the other songs. The two really long tracks “The Island” and”The Crane Wife 1 & 2″ are the ones that stretch the album to an hour’s lenght and both could’ve done with some trimming I feel. But the album ends on a great note with “Sons & Daughters”, a feel-good, sing-along track that put a smile on my face. The Crane Wife has got to be one of the strongest albums I’ve heard all year (it came out in 2006, but I only bought it last week), the songs are memorable and distinct, and while the album concept doens’t work for me, the lyrics are still vivid and engaging.

The Decemberists – The Crane Wife:

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