Recording information: Flora, Portland, OR (09/2008).
Illustrator: Carson Ellis.
Photographer: Autumn de Wilde.
On THE HAZARDS OF LOVE, their second major-label outing, the Portland, Oregon-based ensemble the Decemberists continue to carve out their hyper-literate indie-rock niche, presenting a fairy-tale song cycle rooted in British folk. Rather than staying in the ornate and antiquated atmosphere of past albums, however, lead Decemberist Colin Meloy and the band soar to prog/classic-rock heights, at times evoking revered acts such as Fairport Convention and even Led Zeppelin.
Featuring subtle guest turns by Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Rebecca Gates (the Spinanes), and key influence Robyn Hitchcock, LOVE benefits considerably from the luminous double Diamond presence of Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), who take on the guises of characters in Meloy's fantastical narrative, while he lends his distinctive nasal croon to other central players in this oddly romantic story. While "The Hazards of Love 1" recalls vintage Decemberists, "Won't Want for Love" opts for an expansive "Battle of Evermore" vibe, and the dramatic "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid" challenges the Arcade Fire in terms of sonic grandeur. Though past Decemberists offerings have run the risk of seeming overly insular, HAZARDS invites new listeners in with its bold, if still quirky, widescreen sound.
Rolling Stone (p.86) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "True to form, THE HAZARDS OF LOVE brings the glorious excess: There's strummy British folk rock and heavy-metal thunder, orchestral strings and a children's choir."
Spin (p.75) - "Meloy can write the hell out of melody, and he's got a flair for making what might seem heady and ridiculous on paper into something that sounds relatable and touching."
Alternative Press (p.120) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "For the band's fifth studio album, THE HAZARDS OF LOVE, Colin Meloy & Co. have assembled a 21st-century concept album with roots in 16th-century imagery and '70s stoner rock."
Down Beat (p.58) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "This is rock at its artsy best that takes the concept album an impressive step further by mixing in a diversity of styles, from folk rock to gripping prog rock and heavy metal..."
Q (Magazine) (p.104) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "THE HAZARDS OF LOVE is that most archaic of things -- the fully formed album, and a concept album at that....Its musical palette is a vivid and evocative one, shaded by accordion, harpsichord and pedal steel."
Clash (magazine) (p.110) - "The Decembrists show off their impressive array of talents both vocally and instrumentally, with the band constantly switching from haunting acoustic folk to powerful blues and metal riffs."
Uncut (magazine) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t's a 17-track suite of striking musical and verbal intricacy that unfolds over the course of nearly an hour."