The Hazards of Love
This is how Decemberists front man Colin Meloy described the Portland band's new record, The Hazards of Love, a few months ago: "...the tale of a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal; her lover, William; a forest queen; and a cold-blooded, lascivious rake, who recounts with spine-tingling ease how he came to be living so easy and free."
Meloy shares vocal duties with Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond and Becky Stark from Lavendar Diamond, both of whom play "characters" in the story. Stark appears early on the record, leading the surging and slightly creepy "Won't Wait for Love" that bleeds into "Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)," which although weirdly haunting, is probably as close to Meloy comes to harkening back to the lighter sounds of The Crane Wife, on this album. "The Rake's Song" gives a taste of the band's rarely seen aggressive side and is a pleasant taste of the energy these tracks will bring to the band's live shows this summer.
But Hazards is best enjoyed en whole. It is, in essence, a piece of theater and there aren't many tracks that stand out on their own, yet somehow these cuts gel within the context of Meloy's greater vision. And it's a vision that it seems could only happen in the strange world of the Decemberists.