There are certain albums that you run across in life that just speak to you. Whether it is a specific song that resonates through that particular release or a full concept album that changes your musical taste trajectory, we all have one or more that we keep going back to and mean something personal to us.
I call these Stand Out Albums and today’s Stand Out Album is The Crane Wife from a band I have discussed before, The Decemberists.
Why This Album?
After discovering The Decemberists via Picaresque I soon became enamored with this band and the vocal styling of Colin Meloy and was delighted to discover a new album soon after fully immersing myself in the pleasures of Picaresque. There was something unique and special about this band setting themselves apart from the rest of the music that was being released in the mid 2000’s. In many ways, they reminded me of the music I grew up with with hints of Neil Young, Moody Blues and even some Jethro Tull but wrapped in an indie blanket making them feel somewhat inaccessible. I can’t really describe The Decemberists musical style, sure I could throw labels at it like Folk or Progressive but those labels really do not do them justice.
Enough about the band, let’s talk about this album. To fully appreciate The Crane Wife as an album, you should familiarize yourself with it’s primary inspiration of the same name. Based on a Japanese Folktale, The Crane Wife (or Tsuru no Ongaeshi) is the story of a man who, after saving a cranes life, he meets a beautiful woman who informs him that she is his wife. After accepting this although he is poor, she hides away and makes a gorgeous fabric for him to sell. However, at her request, he is forbidden to be present while she makes this fabric. After selling the fabric making them both rich, she once again retires to her private room to make something but, once again asks him to not enter until she is done. Unfortunately his curiosity gets the best of him and he peeks in on her only to discover that she is, in fact, the crane that he had once saved. Discovering that he knows the truth, she informs him that she can not stay and flies away never to return.It is a sad tale and sets the stage for what could be one of the finest albums to be released in the 2000’s.
The album itself is one of tales of love, loss and sorrow depicting not only the story above but variations on Romeo & Juliet (O Valencia) as well as the Bard’s classic The Tempest (The Island). Each song is a story in and of itself that occasionally references or revisits these stories in later tracks. It is incredible that this album was only released a year after Picaresque and manages to not only be something different than the previous album but also comes across as a well practiced and extremely refined piece of art. There is not a bad track on here and, while each song stands alone it is recommended that you listen to it in one setting as each song complements each other beautifully.
If you want a place to start and get a sense of just how good The Decemberists are, you should spin this album and enjoy every moment of it’s incredible offerings.
This is hard to do. Seriously, I do have some favorite tracks but to really appreciate it you should listen to the album as a whole. That being said, I will give you one that should, if anything, should get you interested in listening further. My pick, Yankee Bayonet.
Yankee Bayonet is a tale depicting two lovers torn apart by a war, more specifically, The Civil War. It gives a great depiction of life from both lovers point of view as they seem to be writing to one another, or at least dreaming of talking during the hard times.
Ok, Where do I get it?
You can pick up a copy for around $15 here and they also have a pretty rad anniversary edition you can listen to on Spotify. I highly recommend listening to the original release first as the bonus tracks don’t quite fit the theme of the album but it’s still great.
Late to the Game 4/7/2020
Thanks for reading, If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and also check out some retro tv goodness with the ongoing series Retro TV Reviews here. You can also find a few of my other Music Reviews Here.
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