hey folks! we’re back with another review From the Vault, continuing the discography review of The Decemberists! this series of reviews covers the band’s whole discography, from 2003’s 5 Songs EP all the way to 2018’s Travelling On! this review was originally written in September 2021.

this isn’t my first time listening to and talking about this record – some friends and i had a “book club” for records, and this was an early pick in our Album Club. i was a fan the first time around, so let’s see if there’s more here in store, with the context of their discography so far!

man Crane Wife 3 is still such a great opener to this record. the track builds in such a cool way, and Colin Meloy’s vocal performance is great shifting from that slow realization to the pleading “and i will hang my head, hang my head low” is just great, with the stirring almost inspirational music behind this like, heartbreaking story moment. and i thought it before and i still feel that it’s a really strong opener against what could’ve been a natural place to open the album, The Island. it’s interesting after experiencing the Tain to see two 10+ minute tracks on this record (even with the Crane Wife 3 broken off, 1 + 2 are still 11 minutes, lol), as though this is their attempt to take that kind of storytelling and make it work within a larger experience. Come and See’s long intro is really cool, but causes that first leg to last almost half the length of the runtime – the intro itself feels like a part 0.5, haha. The Landlord’s Daughter is my fave part of the Island, with the organ and the drums frantically playing off each other. You’ll Not Feel the Drowning is really… cathartic for something so fucking grim. The back-and-forth duet style of Yankee Bayonet is really cool, and with this really tragic song about loss during wartime they’re really driving home the album theme of doomed love huh. O, Valencia is my #1 track, absolute bop, complete fave on the whole album. love it. i did a big disrespect to the Perfect Crime #2 the first time i listened to this record, which i am here now to rectify. The steady instrumentation (love that bass), the slowly unfolding story, the Perfect Crime #2 is fucking great. big ups. When the War Came is a really strong track that i am totally stealing for a playlist, but it’s a little TOO slow and plodding for me normally. Shankill Butchers has a great tone but sits a little long once it’s developed, imo. Summersong is really sweet and nice – i was warm on it in early listens but have mellowed on it since. it’s still a really nice song, and it’s a really good way to bring up the pace after Shankill Butchers before the centerpiece of the album. the final parts of the Crane Wife are a really beautiful emotional build, really a great way to payoff the build up of the last few tracks. Sons & Daughters is a fucking fantastic closer to the record – stirring and hopeful after a record of grim failures and early departures. a great payoff to the stories in Yankee Bayonet and When the War Came. plus like, who doesn’t love the delivery on “by land, by sea, by di-regi-ble”, haha.

faves – O, Valencia, The Perfect Crime #2
dislikes –

my original thoughts on this record had a note about this having a lot of narrative music, which sound funny given basically everything else they’ve ever done, but i still think this album’s got a unique approach so far in their discog – they’ve done long tracks and huge segmented stories, but i think this one’s really pulling out all the stops, and it still manages to keep the REALLY strong thematic throughline. it’s part of what i liked so much in Castaways and Cutouts, and it’s cool to see that kind of directed album construction here. the song-to-song flow is really nice, the performances are fantastic throughout, and the lyrics here are excellent throughout. as much as like, very few of the individual tracks ended up on my “loved” list, i really think the album as a whole is really incredible.. i’m really excited to see where they go from here!

The Crane Wife – 9/10

next in the discography is The Hazards of Love!

first: 5 Songs EP | previous: Picaresqueties | next: The Hazards of Love

all my reviews for The Decemberists