The Hazards of Love, cinquième opus des Decemberists, cinq américains au folk progressif fantaisiste hors du commun, est un véritable opéra. On est habitués : en 2006, ils nous avaient impressionné avec The Crane Wife, une perle folk aux mille saveurs. The Hazards of Love, du haut de ses dix-sept pistes, conte l'histoire de Margaret et de son amour William, un vagabond des bois. Contrairement à The Crane Wife, les pistes ne dépassent pas les six minutes, et l'album joue dans la continuité : aucun intervalle ne sépare les morceaux, et tout s'enchaîne avec une fluidité étonnante.
Prelude, vrombissement aux harmonies lentes d'un orgue électrique, introduit ce long voyage. Le titre principal, The Hazards of Love, est divisé en quatre parties. Le refrain est récurrent, mais les thèmes très variés et, par la même occasion, plaisants. The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone) nous fait découvrir une guitare folk tonique et précise, et une voix reconnaissable parmi tant d'autres : celle de Colin Meloy, chanteur principal du groupe, qui interprète ici le personnage de William. Le deuxième épisode, The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All), est un morceau apaisant, avec des accords folk mystérieux et des percussions douces. Cet hymne de passion prend beaucoup d'ampleur sur The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!), où des instrumentations magiques et dansantes accompagnent des chœurs d'enfants innocents : c'est joyeux et léger. La finale, The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned), resplendit de ses mélodies (parfois très Pink Floyd) et de sa douceur subtile.
Le personnage de William chante également seul dans The Rake's Song, bel hymne énergique aux deux accords infatigables, et Annan Water, folk d'une pureté cristalline se terminant sur des harmonies de prières illuminées. ]Les plus : - Un lyrisme d'une belle puissance pour un conte d'amour. - Mille surprises vous attendent, une finesse musicale sans pareille.
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Simply Incredible! A Landmark Achievement in Music24 mars 2009
Cale E. Reneau
- Publié sur Amazon.com
More than a singer, a songwriter, or an instrumentalist; Colin Meloy has always been a storyteller. From The Decemberists' humble debut in 2001, this has always been the case. It is for that reason, perhaps, that it's perplexing that it took the group this long to release a concept album, a record that tells one story throughout its length. 2006's brilliant The Crane Wife came close, with a story told over several tracks. Even with that under their belt, however, tackling a rock opera, a genre notoriously riddled with incoherent storytelling and major disappointments, is quite the mountain to climb - even for Meloy. Still, if any artist in today's musical world could right this troubled format, it would be Meloy. Fortunately, he has outdone not only the artists that have tried this method before, but even himself in the process.
The Hazards of Love tells the story of Margaret, a meek villager who falls in love with William, an inhabitant of a nearby magical forest. Margaret soon discovers that she is pregnant with William's child and sets off into the forest to find him. But as is so often the case with Meloy's stories, their love and future are threatened by William's jealous mother, the Queen of the forest, and a crazed, murderous widower. The album's first 8 songs set up the love story between the two central characters, while the album's second half brings the action to the story, ultimately ending with a beautiful, touching finale.
As already noted, the album's greatest strength is the story that it tells. Obviously, this should come as no surprise to any seasoned Decemberists fan, but the elongated format provides Meloy the opportunity to tell his story differently than has been done in the past. One of the devices that Meloy relies heavily on is foreshadowing, something that can't really be done on a single song. Throughout the tale, subtle imagery and lines are implemented that hint at the fate of not only William and Margaret, voiced by Meloy and Becky Stark respectively, but their antagonists as well. The implementation of foreshadowing lends itself to repeated listenings, and as the puzzle pieces all fall into place over time, I've found myself smiling at the intricacy of the tale.
One of the perils of concept albums that The Decemberists have overcome with The Hazards of Love is that they have kept the story about as coherent as possible. If one were to go back and examine all the "great" rock operas and concept albums of the past (Pink Floyd's The Wall, or The Who's Tommy), they are likely to find that the stories are weak, confusing, and stimulate little emotion from the listener. The Hazards of Love exceeds where these albums have failed, and though it's difficult to make a call on it this early in the game, it may be the greatest story that Meloy has ever told. Without question, though, it has already risen to the upper echelon of my "favorite concept albums" list.
A lot of that has not only to do with the story, but with the music as well. The Decemberists have taken a great risk in making this album as they have, relying heavily on aspects of progressive rock and metal. With the exception of "Isn't it a Lovely Night," there is little on The Hazards of Love that harkens back to the band's Victorian-era stylings of past albums. This is a rock opera, after all. With that leap comes the threat of alienating many of the fans that they have gained over the years. This album is awash with grandeur and bombast that would have never even have been considered for previous Decemberists' records. But all of it has its place on the album, and all of it feels appropriate for the story being told. For example, The Queen, voiced by Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, is always accompanied by heavy metal riffs that mirror her evil, dark presence in the story. A lot of credit should be given to Meloy and Chris Funk who absolutely make these portions of the album feel natural and exciting, rather than forced. And while I'm dishing out praises, Shara Worden is a revelation as The Queen! Her few moments on the album alone make the whole thing worth listening to!
In truth, every musician who has leant their talents to the creation of this album has done a fantastic job. I do feel, however, that Jenny Conlee might have been underutilized this time around, as her skills are sort of downplayed throughout the album to make room for Meloy and Funk. There are moments where she shines, like on the instrumental "The Crossing," but these are scarce on the record. And yet despite all the musical changes that have been made to the band's sound to make this album work, I can't help but love every second of it! A Decemberists record or not, this is a fantastic work of art that I've listened to over and over again for the last few weeks. It is an album filled with beauty, emotion, and of course, Meloy's dark-twisted humor! I get chills when Shara Worden hits that last note of "Repaid," I chuckle at the ultimate fate of The Rake in "Revenge!," and a little bit of me breaks every time I hear the gorgeous finale, "The Drowned" (possibly the best song Meloy has ever written). This is an album that begs to be heard. It is one that is deserving of every positive word that it receives from myself or any other fan. The Decemberists have risked their reputation to release a record that is markedly different from anything that we have ever heard before. The result is something far too beautiful for words, too poignant for further commentary. My words end here.
Key Tracks: 1. "Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)" 2. "The Wanting Comes in Wave/Repaid" 3. "The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing" 4. "Annan Water" 5. "The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)"
10 out of 10 Stars
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A True Gem24 mars 2009
Midwest Music Reviewer
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I admit I was nervous when I first heard about the Decemberists new album, the Hazards of Love. A sprawling concept album is a very ambitious effort and the margin of error is very small. No one would have begrudged them had it fallen flat, because the degree of difficulty is so high and success in this format seems very hard to achieve.
However my worries were for naught, as the Decemberists came through and they came through big. This album is nothing less than a home run, and may go down as being this band's masterpiece. They managed to make an album that is clever, complex, that contains a complete narrative, and at the same time is the Decemberists most rocking by far.
The album effortlessly shifts from one style to another with four main song types, the instrumentals (Prelude, Queens Approach, and Interlude), the narrative interludes (Bower Scene, The Abduction of Margeret, Margaret in Captivity, and the Hazards of Love 3), the folk-type ballads (Hazards of Love 1, Hazards of Love 2, Isn't it a lovely night?, Annan Water, Hazards of Love 4), and the pure rockers (Won't Want for Love, Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid, The Rake's Song, The Queen's Rebuke/Crossing, Wanting Comes in Waves Reprise). All of these song types work well, with the last group I think being the strongest and most compelling, but that might just be my own music tastes talking.
This is of course a concept album and thus is best suited for straight start to end listens, and is marvelous in this capacity. The album starts off well enough, but really picks up at the Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid. At this point the Decemberists take it to the next level and never let go. The story line is at times tough to follow but you can easily get the main gist of it and with time and a lyric sheet I'm sure one can parse out some of the more subtle directions of the tale. One quick highlight I think is worth mentioning, Shara Worden's appearances in Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid and Queen's Rebuke/Crossing are nothing short of fantastic. She brings haunting vocals to a new height and does an all out wonderful job. This is a wonderful album that really can and should be listened to multiple times.
So yes, I give this album nothing short of an A+, it is a great and interesting work that I happily give my highest recommendation to.
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Absolutely Brilliant!!!25 mars 2009
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This album was released a week early through Itunes, so that's when I firts listened to it. At first listen, it was really good and then I listened to it again and it became awesome. Finally, I waited for it to be released on CD and went and bought that version of it so I could have the artwork and liner notes (as they pritned lyrics). I then listened to again and was in awe of what I was listening to. The first two listens allowed me to become familiar with the music so when I listened to it the third time I could focus more on the lyrics. This is how I came to believe, with little hesitation, that this is and will remain the best album of 2009.
The story, simplified, is this: William and Margaret fall in love with one another. The Queen (Williams mother) doesn't want Margaret in Williams life so she convinces the Rake to abduct Margaret and take her away from William forever. William then ventures out to rescue Maragaret. Now, there's a lot of folklorish substance added to this story, such as fawns, shapeshifters and what have you... but the story at it's core is a very simple and universal one and the ending is very Shakesperian.
There aren't really any songs on this album that have that instant catchiness of "We Both Go Down Together" or "Yankee Bayonett," but this is a concept album...it should, and must, but judged in it's entirety. For instance, prior to the albums release Sirius XMU had been playing The Rake's Song pretty heavily, and while it was good I thought it was one of their weaker songs. However, I found the song to be absolutely amazing when hearing it in it's place on the album.
A true album's album in a time when radio hit makers are running the show. You owe it to yourself to listen to this album... you owe it to music to listen to this album.
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I'd give it 100 stars if I could!29 août 2011
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I'm usually not one to gush, but this album is so great, I have to. It's just an all-time classic, definitely one of my faves all-time, and I'm almost 50 with a collection of over 500 CDs. OK, I'm not saying that makes me an expert, I'm just saying... I LOVE this album.
So many stunningly beautiful parts... So inventive in so many places... A great story -- While I'm as about as far as one can get from being romantic, I still cry at the ending every time, and I've probably heard the album like 40 times now...
An absolute classic. I didn't think they could top the excellent Crane Wife, but they most certainly did. Kudos to Colin Meloy for creating a masterpiece.
[Oh, and a word to the wise (but inexperienced): As with any prog-ish album, you have to give this one at least, say, 5 spins in its entirety before it starts to grow on you. That may seem kind of tedious the first few times through, but the eventual payoff is HUGE.]
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The Hazards of Ambition9 septembre 2011
- Publié sur Amazon.com
On their fifth full-length CD, The Decemberists went all-in for a concept album about love and death. Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson were probably feeling tingles as Colin Meloy started working up this weird fairy-tail about Margaret and her shape-shifting saviour, maidens, white fawns, murderous paramours, a jealous woodland queen and other literary types in a 17-part song-cycle. Equal parts "Thick As A Brick," Richard and Linda Thompson's "Shoot Out The Lights" and Rush's metal concepts, "The Hazards of Love" is as complex as it is geeky.
In addition to all the pretense and encyclopedic folk-rock-opera goings on the make geeks drool, guest vocalists include Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, as well as Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Rebecca Gates of the Spinanes), and (bonus nerd points!) Robyn Hitchcock. The music swings from plucked banjos to crunching metal riffage, from 4/4 pounders to gentle, woodsy waltzes. There's also an evil sense of humor ("The Rake"), which helps leaven the seriousness of it all. And let's face it, "The Hazards of Love" wants to be taken really seriously. With Colin Meloy's bookish lyrics and unsung bearded guitar hero Chris Funk lays down such an amazing variety of licks, he makes the gumbo of styles come together mightily.
"The Hazards of Love" may have been the album to get The Decemberists to settle down, ultimately. Rich, bulky and ambitious, it gave way to the compositionally tighter and more cohesive "The King is Dead" two years later. But for sheer chutzpah, "The Hazards of Love" wins for one of 2009's best albums.