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.

the next record is The Hazards of Love, released in 2009. i dig rock operas/heavily concepted records like this, so i think for this rather than go literally track by track i’ll go plot beat by plot beat, still leaving my fave tracks at the end.

right off the bat, the long quiet intro is an interesting change to many of the album designs ive heard recently, where theyre almost hinting at or helping looped play. almost a deliberate move like an orchestra spinning up as the stage lights dim. neat effect on the mood. i really like the mood shift after the inciting incident – from A Bower Scene through the beginning of Hazards of Love 2, the vibes are super sinister, either matching Margeret’s determination or the narration’s knowledge of whats coming. i gotta say i love the guest vocalists on this one. Becky Stark does fantastic as Margaret, and i LOVE Shara Nova’s Forest Queen. i also appreciate that the protagonists get a few sweet tender songs together before the Queen arrives. sequentially its interesting that the Queen approaches before her actual arrival, though im p sure William mentions that her vibes “precede her like a black smoke pall”. The Wanting Comes In Waves is my absolute fave of the album – the hook here is incredible, and my other current favorite song of the Decemberists also has Meloy singing out in desperate longing, so… i guess take that as you will. def appreciate the act break, almost surprised they dont emphasize it more, haha. The Rake makes complete sense as the single off this record, and i know a friend of mine shared exposed me to this song after i’d heard The Crane Wife the first time – it fits in perfectly but also could have been on just about any other record. adore the way it kick starts the second act with a bang, and i love the choral backing on the “all right!”s. bleak as fuck character, excellent song. oh i also love that he explicitly says you’d expect him to be haunted, but he’s not.* good stuff. my gut reaction to the Queen’s Rebuke is that i want a lil more flair, but i think jt stands about equal in terms of flair with the Rake’s big showy song, Margaret In Captivity. i still think i want a little more from the Queen but i recognize that’s a personal desire, haha. i like that they bring in The Wanting’s motif for the beginning of The Hazards 3, only to have the confrontation disrupted by the kids, their song a mirror of their father’s. and i like that the Wanting gets a reprise immediately after, though it feels a bit like a false finish with the kind of outro that is Hazards of Love 4. love the twang, love the sorrowful vibe to the song, and i like the swell it builds to, its just funny that they built to it, broke it down, and rebuilt it in the last two tracks. nice denouement, but i was def expecting a massive splash into silence the first time.

As a complete package, there’s a lot i liked here! as with continuous experiences like Nonagon Infinity and, largely, other musical stories, i love it when bands purposefully lean into motifs and repeated musical hooks over an album, esp when they rip as hard as the album chorus on Nonagon or the “hazards of love”, “queen approaches”, and “wanting comes in waves” motifs here. I appreciate that every time they return to the Hazards of Love, they take it from a different angle, and that’s neat! the performances were fantastic. as mentioned above all the guests were stellar, Meloy’s great here and i enjoyed the record instrumentally. a few of these songs work completely without context, and some work with only minor context or only lose a little without it. i appreciate that a lot from a record like this.

narratively, its hard to talk shit on such a well executed star-crossed lovers story, though i could not help thinking that this record was less about the hazards of love and more about the hazards of having-a-shitty-controlling-surrogate-mother (though the love in question might be her love for William, lol). im a lil bummed the two couldn’t escape fully, but their send-off is quite sweet. i’m a lil more bummed that between the end of Queen’s Approach and the end of the album, the only place Maragaret gets dialogue or even any real presence is a cry for help during Margaret In Captivity, esp with her determination in the narrative up front.

faves – The Wanting Comes In Waves / Approach, The Rake’s Song
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 Hazards of Love – 7/10

next in the discography is The King Is Dead

first: 5 Songs EP | previous: The Crane Wife | next: The King Is Dead

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