The Decemberists showcase new album ‘Hazards of Love’ at SXSW NPR show

19 03 2009

Buzz about The Decemberists‘ new album (out now on iTunes/vinyl, CD release March 24), titled “The Hazards of Love,” has been unbearable in the days leading up to the band’s debut performance of it at SXSW. I was so incredibly tempted to listen to the advance copy I’ve had access to, so tempted to learn every single song and sing along with Colin Meloy and his jaunty co. But I just couldn’t; I wanted the band’s performance of the album to surprise and delight me as much as possible. Needless to say, last night I was blown away.

photo by Jillian Mapes

You may think you know The Decemberists; you don’t. For those familiar with the band’s 2005 operatic release “The Crane Wife,” which got more buzz than college kids at a kegger, “The Hazards of Love” turns up the volume with a vengeance. It’s perhaps difficult to believe that a Decemberists album can be significantly more grandiose than “The Crane Wife,” but the band’s latest tops the theatrical tales found within “Crane Wife” without even breaking a sweat.

Many songs start off with frontman (and mutton chop extraordinaire!) Colin Meloy riffing Southern gothic guitar lines in a style of playing more abrasive than previously showcased. Cue the show-stopping tempo change and harpsichord solo, and suddenly you feel as though you’re stuck at a Renaissance Faire or waltzing to compilation CD titled “The Biggest Baroque Hits of 1650.” That sounds mildly terrible, but I can assure you that it’s not.

There’s a lot to look at on stage (fog, lights, massive organ), and there’s even more to focus on within “The Hazards of Love.” Try not to let your brain explode and just enjoy the music for what it is — a chaotically beautiful smattering of elaborate plot twists and whimsical instrumentation. This time around, Meloy and co. channeled the theatrics of the Arcade Fire’s 2007 “Neon Bible” tour. Somehow, I am also reminded slightly of Stevie Nicks’ black magic vibes from Fleetwood Mac days. An odd combo, but throw in a pinch classic country slide guitar and a boatload of Shakespearean lyrical storytelling, and it’s golden. — Jillian Mapes</stron




One response

19 03 2009
dj shredder

i’m loving your coverage jill and i am swooning over colin meloy’s new facial hair style.

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