Ryan Wilson

The Hazards of Loving “The Hazards of Love”

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The Hazards of Love

The Hazards of Love
The Decemberists
Release date: 03/24/09

Those who know me well know that I’m a huge fan of The Decemberists. I was introduced to them shortly after their second album Her Majesty the Decemberists was released and have been listening to them ever since. As they transitioned from indie label Kill Rock Starts to major label Capitol Records, a lot of fans feared that their unique sound would be swallowed up into the mainstream. Now on their second full-length album, The Hazards of Love, with Capitol Records, its safe to say that not only have they kept their unique sound, they can still put out a damn good album.

At first, I intended to have this review out within the first week of its release. I listened to the album every day for 7 days, trying to create the most comprehensive analysis of an album I’ve ever done. I soon found myself with pages upon pages of analysis. One week became two weeks, then three weeks. The pages increased, as did my love for the album. But none of these pages could truly express this love.

The notes made below were made on the first listen of the album, on March 17th, 2009. I’ve included this to show the initial reaction I had of this album. Contains partial (possibly incorrect) spoilers of the album’s storyline.

Slow starting drone, but picks up almost 2 minutes in. Instrumental on church organ. Eerie, but beautiful sounding. String instruments come in to complement the organ and lead into next song.

The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone)
Clean acoustic. Talks about a girl named Margaret wandering the woods where she finds a wounded white faun. The faun turns out to be a shape shifting forest creature.  Heard an early version of this song when I saw Colin Meloy solo.

A Bower Scene
Heavy guitars for a Decemberists song. Another early version I heard.

Won’t Want for Love (Margaret In the Taiga)
Doesn’t sound like a Decemberist song at all. No singing from Colin.

The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)
Its becoming pretty obvious that this album is all one big story. The Decemberists have done multiple part songs in the past, but it seems this whole album is one continuous story.

The Queen’s Approach
Another instrumental

Isn’t It a Lovely Night?
Very cute, almost musical-like serenading.

The Wanting Comes In Waves / Repaid
Goes into harpsichord, an instrument I’d only previously heard in Baroque music. If there was such thing as a folk rock opera, this would be it. Repaid section introduces a new female voice, apparently the jealous mother character in this love story.

An Interlude
Another instrumental track.

The Rake’s Song
Song about the murderous rake. Chunky and heavy, though the closest to the older albums.

The Abduction of Margaret
Almost a reprise of “A Bower Scene”.

The Queen’s Rebuke / The Crossing
Very dark and foreboding as the Queen character sings. Apparently the Queen has hired the rake to abduct Margaret. The Crossing has some very bluesy riffs involved.

Annan Water
Acoustic guitar and drums. Very concerned and frantic sounding. He’s practically pleading that Annan Water will calm down enough so that he can cross.

Margaret In Captivity
Colin as the Rake is trying to break Margaret’s spirit for rescue, yet she continues to cry out for him.

The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)
Reprise in intro of The Wanting Comes in Waves. Children choir singing essentially Part 1 of The Hazards of Love. Use of children and odd noises makes this the creepiest sounding reprise of The Hazards of Love.

The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)
A reprise of The Wanting Comes in Waves, as it seems he is getting closer to Margaret.

The Hazards of Love 4 (The Downed)
Tone of the song makes you get the feeling that although they are back together, they will not live.

The Long and Short of It

Anything I say about this album will not do it justice. The Hazards of Love is The Decemberists’ Tommy, their The Wall, their Ziggy Stardust. Make it an event to listen to the album, as you cannot listen to just one song and stop. Let Colin Meloy’s lyrical artisanship paint a beautiful story for you as it did for me.

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