Friday, January 05, 2007

The Crane Wife by The Decembrists

So rare is it that a band can straddle the seemingly infinite gulf between what is conventionally titled 'rock/pop' and 'prog rock', but when track two of The Decemberists' new release, The Crane Wife, the 12 minute, Pink Floyd-esque, 3-part epic 'The Island-Come and See-The Landlord's Daughter-You'll Not Feel the Drowning', kicks in after the sweeping gorgeousness of album opener, 'The Crane Wife 3', you know you've stumbled onto something magic. Taking all the whimsy and melody from 2002s Picaresque, while dispensing with the bouncing pop of '16 Military Wives', Colin Meloy and co. have adopted an undeniably proggy approach, and it pays off in spades.
With 2 tracks reaching over 10 minutes, shifting from rolling lullaby to stomping multi-faceted monster, not a note is out of place, not a word wasted. Case in point: the introduction of a Gaelic-influenced rhythm section and vocal melodies and harmonies to the aforementioned album opener is nothing short of inspired.
Winsomely balancing frivolity and gravity, the Decemberists assemble an oddball menagerie of the usual rogues and rascals, soldiers and criminals, lovers and baby butchers-- but they've got a lot more tricks up their sleeves than previous albums had hinted.
On this, their fourth album, The Decembrists have finally found their Qi, and it's on display for all to see and hear. And it looks and sounds great.

4 1/2 stars

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