The Decemberists: The Crane Wife [Album Review]

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The Decemberists
The Crane Wife
Capitol Records [2006]

The Fire Note headphone approved

Let’s get the obvious out of the way and point out what you probably have already heard about this album:

  1. The Crane Wife is The Decemberists’ major label debut with Capitol Records after leaving the indie world of Kill Rock Stars.
  2. Chris Walla from Death Cab For Cutie produced the darn thing.
  3. This is a concept album telling an old Japanese folk tale where a poor man nurses an injured crane back to health, falls in love with a woman who is a kick-ass spinner of clothing, finds out she is a crane, and then she flies away like the original crane.

Now for the important discussion – how are the tunes? The tunes are great. The production has definitely been stepped up from their previous efforts. The songs all have a crisper sound without losing any of the instrumentation The Decemberists are best known for. They have also ventured into some new territory on The Crane Wife and included two songs over eleven minutes long. Before you get scared, the songs are broken down into sections with their own lyrics, so you never really feel like they are just one track. The Decemberists have included some guest vocals, like Laura Veirs on “Yankee Bayonet,” which is a superb duet with Colin Meloy. Chris Walla also sings backup on several tracks, which gives The Crane Wife that extra special indie star power. Overall, The Crane Wife is absolutely not a major label sellout. This record will retain all of their original fans and has a chance at finding many new ones. I believe this is some of their best work and will only get better with repeat listens.

Key Tracks: “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)” / “Summersong” / “O Valencia!”

Artists With Similar Fire: Early R.E.M. / Death Cab For Cutie / The Long Winters

Christopher Anthony

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