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Crane Wife
     

The Crane Wife

4.5 19
by The Decemberists
 

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The Decemberists have carved out a unique aesthetic. Beginning with their first album, 2002's Castaways and Cutouts, Colin Meloy and crew sang in ornate vocabulary of archaic characters; they peopled their albums with child princesses, lusty sailors, and chimney sweeps and set the tales to lilting folk-rock orchestration.

Overview

The Decemberists have carved out a unique aesthetic. Beginning with their first album, 2002's Castaways and Cutouts, Colin Meloy and crew sang in ornate vocabulary of archaic characters; they peopled their albums with child princesses, lusty sailors, and chimney sweeps and set the tales to lilting folk-rock orchestration. Meloy's gift for memorable, lovely melodies made what could be rather precious into something rather brilliant. All those characteristic elements can be found on The Crane Wife (the Portland, Oregon, band's fourth album and first for a major label), but so can some surprises. The nearly 13-minute "The Island" is unabashedly prog-rock: Its multi-part structure, dramatic electric guitar arpeggios, heavy keyboards, and elaborate strings place it in the tradition of hoary bands like Gentle Giant, and it's closer to the Decemberists' 2004 EP The Tain than to anything else in their catalog. "When the War Came," "The Crane Wife 1 and 2," and "The Perfect Crime #2" are similarly weighty and/or extravagant. But The Crane Wife also includes some of the Decemberists' most catchy and accessible pop tunes: "The Crane Wife 3" (based on a Japanese folk tale), the jangly "Oh Valencia!" and the gradually building "Sons and Daughters" may be Meloy's best songs yet. It's good to hear the band expanding their horizons: They had begun to run the risk of niche-marketing to English majors and history buffs.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Christopher Monger
Colin Meloy and his brave Decemberists made the unlikely jump to a major label after 2005's excellent Picaresque, a move that surprised both longtime fans and detractors of the band. While it is difficult to imagine the suits at Capitol seeing dollar signs in the eyes of an accordion- and bouzouki-wielding, British folk-inspired collective from Portland, OR, that dresses in period Civil War outfits and has been known to cover Morrissey, it's hard to argue with what the Decemberists have wrought from their bounty. The Crane Wife is loosely based on a Japanese folk tale that concerns a crane, an arrow, a beautiful woman, and a whole lot of clandestine weaving. The record's spirited opener and namesake picks off almost exactly where Picaresque left off, building slowly off a simple folk melody before exploding into some serious Who power chords. This is the first indication that the band itself was ready to take the loosely ornate, reverb-heavy Decemberists sound to a new sonic level, or rather that producers Tucker Martine and Chris Walla were. On first listen, the tight, dry, and compressed production style sounds more like Queens of the Stone Age than Fairport Convention, but as The Crane Wife develops over its 60-plus minutes, a bigger picture appears. Meloy, who along with Destroyer's Dan Bejar has mastered the art of the North American English accent, has given himself over to early-'70s progressive rock with gleeful abandon, and while many of the tracks pale in comparison to those on Picaresque, the ones that succeed do so in the grandest of fashions. Fans of the group's Tain EP will find themselves drawn to "Island: Come and See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll Not Feel the Drowning" and "The Crane Wife, Pts. 1 & 2," both of which are well over ten minutes long and feature some truly inspired moments that echo everyone from the Waterboys and R.E.M. to Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, while those who embrace the band's poppier side will flock around the winsome "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)," which relies heavily on the breathy delivery of Seattle singer/songwriter and part-time Decemberist Laura Veirs. Some cuts, like the English murder ballad "Shankill Butchers" and "Summersong" (the latter eerily reminiscent of Edie Brickell's "What I Am"), sound like outtakes from previous records, but by the time the listener arrives at the Donovan-esque (in a good way) closer, "Sons & Daughters," the less tasty bits of The Crane Wife seem a wee bit sweeter.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/03/2006
Label:
Capitol
UPC:
0094635398427
catalogNumber:
53984
Rank:
27472

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Decemberists   Primary Artist
John Moen   Percussion,Drums,Background Vocals
Eyvind Kang   Violin,Viola
Nate Query   Percussion,Electric Bass,Cello,Background Vocals,Upright Bass
Chris Walla   Keyboards,Background Vocals
Laura Veirs   Vocals,Talking
Ezra Holbrook   Background Vocals
Chris Funk   Dulcimer,Banjo,Bouzouki,Guitar,Percussion,Pedal Steel Guitar,Electric Guitar,Background Vocals,Hurdy-Gurdy
Colin Meloy   Acoustic Guitar,Bouzouki,Percussion,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Jenny Conlee   Percussion,Piano,Accordion,Glockenspiel,Hammond Organ,Background Vocals,Pump Organ,Wurlitzer,Moog Bass
Steve Drizos   Hand Drums

Technical Credits

Tucker Martine   Producer
Chris Walla   Producer
Colin Meloy   Composer
Carson Ellis   Illustrations
Dawn Barger   Management

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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The Crane Wife 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
FlavorBritt More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite CDs of all time. The whole CD flows from start to finish, and the songs range from eerie to joyous and fun. Absolutely fantastic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Decemberists are one of my favorite bands ever, but this album is a bit of a let down compared to their older work. They do have some really great songs on here, like the Shankill Butchers, and the Summersong.
ZombieMom More than 1 year ago
From the opening of "Crane Wife 3" to the closing of "Sons and Daughters", a remarkable album. Colin Meloy's music & lyrics get better and better, and the band's arrangements and musicianship matches. Favorites: "Crane Wives" (1, 2 & 3), "Yankee Bayonet" (duet with Laura Viers), and the aforementioned "Sons and Daughters".
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is such a cute album, Valencia, The Perfect Crime and Summersong are absolutely wonderful
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is music that kids and parents alike can enjoy mutually. It's not defined by cultural trends, but by history and variety. It incorporates so much that is tried and tested, while mixing it up constantly. Definately worth your time to check out!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been listening to this CD in Barnes and Noble (where I work) for a while now and I have to say I am still not sick of it! I still look forward to hearing it! They have a beautiful Irish influenced sound with wonderful harmony and fun accoustics! It is a great CD!
KMaryG More than 1 year ago
I am addicted to this CD. I listen to it constantly, finding it calms me down when going through rough times. The music tells a magnificent story which is wonderful to listen to. This story tells the story of life and the melody seems to follow life's patterns- mostly good with the times of hardship. The CD takes you through a journey that leaves the listener in touch with their emotions and enlightened. Definitely worth listening to. (My personal favorites include Shankill Butchers, Crane Wife 1 & 2, and Sons & Daughters.)
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