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The Decemberists:: The Crane Wife (Album Review)

The Crane Wife makes no sense. For the first major-label release by Kill Rock Stars nerdcult faves the Decemberists, you’d assume the EMI suits would be pressuring Colin Meloy and co. to deliver at least one radio-friendly single. But Meloy’s smartly taken advantage of the resources a major provides to develop a composite concept album made up of two separate song cycles (the titular one, a reimagining of a Japanese folk tale divided into two chunks, and a fantastic tripartite prog patchwork he’s dubbed The Island) and a handful of dense tracks that span genres from funk to folk to fuckin’ grunge (!). Oddly, the unconventional sequencing and measured pace of the album make the fragmented mess hold together quite well, save for one pallid entry into 70s funk (The Perfect Crime #2), which is incongruous in this context. The combo of producers Chris Walla and Tucker Martine is ideal: the former’s obsession with sonic perfection and epic indie pop plays off the latter’s knack for weird folk and intricate songcraft.
(Sarah Liss)