In House #1717: The Decemberists' The Crane Wife; New Robyn Hitchcock
Like everyone from R.E.M. to Uncle Tupelo before them, Portland's Decemberists make the brave venture into the major label world with their fourth full-length, The Crane Wife, out today on Capitol. Much to their credit, Colin Meloy and company don't veer far from their indie label fare, aside from a slightly glossier recording sheen and a direction toward less thematic pop tunes like "Summersong." Far from dumbing things down for the masses, the album's three part title track is based on an ancient Japanese folk tale, and the ten song collection features two tracks that clock in at right around twelve minutes in length (each of which recall 2003's epic EP The Tain in both sound and structure)-- not exactly Top 40 material. As has come to be expected, Meloy's ever-literate writing consists of war and star-crossed lovers, death and abduction, weaving tales worthy of his reputation-- let's call it "indie-Dickensian." The most striking thing about The Crane Wife, however, is the unexpected sonic territory it covers, evoking strains of Fleetwood Mac and Jethro Tull on songs like "The Perfect Crime 2" and the grandiose suite, "The Island: Come & See/ The Landlord's Daughter/ You'll Not Feel the Drowning." The emergence of the band as an instrumental powerhouse packing an unexpected muscle at times almost renders the lyrical content secondary, whereas in the past Meloy's pen was unquestionably the music's main engine. Elsewhere, the guest spot from Laura Veirs on "Yankee Bayonet" makes for the coolest lovelorn duet since Michael Stipe haunted Kristin Hersh's "Your Ghost (MP3)". In short, you'll find no major label misstep here as The Decemberists respond boldly with what is being called their most consistent and realized effort. They begin the Rout of the Paragons tour later this month, hitting Meloy's old stomping grounds, Missoula, MT, on the 16th of November.
In House #1717.
Focus: New release from The Decemberists, The Crane Wife, plus new music from Robyn Hitchcock, Beirut, Pernice Brothers, Sparklehorse, and more.
In House PODCAST #185