The Decemberists – Hazards of Love

Decemberists - Hazards of LoveThe Decemberists fourth studio album, Hazards of Love is an epic tale with a narrative to battle Ziggy Stardust.

Inspired by Anne Briggs’ 1966 EP of the same name, Hazards of Love was originally intended to be a musical, but frontman Colin Meloy opted to go for a rock album. I, personally, think it would make a killer musical, but what do I know?

Guests on this album include Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark as Margaret,  My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden as The Queen, with the Decemberists own Colin Meloy as both William and The Rake.

The album begins with the tale of Margaret, a royal concubine who ventures into the wilderness on horseback, as she often does. Margaret comes upon an injured fawn, and despite the impending dawn, dismounts to aide it. Upon closer inspection, Margaret finds that the fawn in not actually a fawn, but shape-shifting William. Apparently it’s love at first sight, because before we know it, they’re shagging like bunnies.

Margaret returns to the castle all swoony and glowing from the escapade and wouldn’t you know it? She’s knocked up. So Margaret decides to return to the taiga to find her baby daddy.  So eventually does, more shagging ensues, then bam, enter The Evil Queen.

Apparently many moons before, The Queen had rescued infant William from the rushing waters of the Annan thus becoming a sort of adopted mother to him. William has the unfortunate curse of only being able to be a man at night. In the day, he is restricted to his fawn form. So needless to say, The Queen goes batshit over this illicit affair and tells William that he can no longer go out at night, rendering him unable to continue shagging Margaret. Unless she’s into bestiality. So William begs The Queen to let him out for one more night. He even tells her that if she lets him go for one night, that he will return by dawn and be hers forever. The Queen lets him go, but only because she has other, more sinister intentions.

The Evil Queen hires The Rake to kidnap Margaret. Since this trollop has tempted her child, she tells the Rake to kidnap her, and in return, The Queen will get him across the wild waters of the Annan, an impossible feat.

Enter: The Rake! Ooooh, such a vile man. A little backstory on the Rake: The Rake was once “wedded and it whetted his thirst”. AKA, he got married, shagged a bunch, and really enjoyed it. The downside to shagging a lot? Babies. He and his wife had three, but said wife died in childbirth with number four. So, burdened with three children and no wife to shag, he kills the children. He poisons Charlotte, drowns Dawn, and even though the little boy fights back, The Rake kills him and sets his body on fire.

So The Rake kidnaps Margaret, William discovers this and follows the trail, leading him to the Annan. He begs the river to let him cross and to rescue Margaret, telling the river that she may take him upon his return.

In one of the more haunting tracks on the album, “The Hazards of Love Three: Revenge!”, The Rake becomes haunted by the voice of his murdered children. In comes valiant William who kills The Rake in his time of vulnerability and rescues Margaret.

-SPOILER ALERT!-

The Tragic Ending:
William and Margaret make it back to the Annan, but the river is ready to collect her debt. While the rushing and rising waters attempt to take William, he proposes to her, with only the waves as their witnesses. In their last moments, they profess their love for each other and willingly give themselves to the river. The poor lovers sink below and thus become entwined, sharing eternity at the bottom of the Annan.

On this album, you will find no catchy chorus. You will find no bridges or hooks. You will find an incredibly romantic tale of a forbidden and cursed love. This album is amazing. I have heard of The Decemberists on many occasions, but only recently began listening to them. I honestly don’t know what took me so long. This album has absolutely nothing in common with any of their previous albums, and I doubt it will with any of their future efforts. It’s something all it’s own and it’s simply beautiful.

Musically, I find this to be quite a step for The Decemberists. This is not your average folk album. It’s filled with heavy guitar and snarling vocals and vulnerability and pain and sacrifice. “The Queen’s Rebuke/The Crossing” is a guitar-heavy track with the throaty, plotting vocals of Shara Worden. God, I love her voice. Mental note: check out My Brightest Diamond sometime. “The Rake’s Song” finds normally calm Meloy snarling and becoming a murderous, adulterous wretch of a man. Such a powerful transformation!

While I love Castaways and Cutouts, I love this album, perhaps even more, but for different reasons.

Actually, I had a conversation this weekend about modern cinema. About how when movies first began, they took all the time in the world to develop characters and the relationships between them. Now, the average person’s attention span for that is far too short, and senses overloaded by so much, that the scenes have to change more frequently and we lose that connection. This album is everything a story should be, in the span of an hour.

For once, I think I am speechless. Just go listen to it. A

The Decemberists’ Site

Decemberists on NPR

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Third Eye Blind’s new album postponed…

3EB Band ShotThird Eye Blind’s fourth full-length album, Ursa Major, has been postponed and I am very, very sad. I’ve been waiting since 2003 for this album, goddamnit, and I want it now! A few (possible) tracks have been available on the band’s Myspace, as well as leaked, but I want the whole album!

According to the band’s Wikipedia page, there isn’t even a final track listing done yet. Boo. I started researching this album months ago to prepare myself for the review to end all reviews. In those few months, the prospective song listing has changed at least 3 times.

So, for all those other 3EB fans waiting patiently, this one’s for you:

Third Eye Blind – Don’t Believe A Word
Cigarette’s make an ember stain
Notes scribbled on paper chain
Ever get the feeling that you’ve been cheated?
You busted out, you’ve been defeated
All strong bones we hold no water
A big fake smile and you try harder
Time wound down and you’ve been cached
Half measures are all half-assed!
How did I ever end up this way?
‘Cause I go numb in disarray
I cultivate my ignorance
Didn’t I have some standards once?
I hate you down to your boots

We wanted clever, we settled for cute and
Remember the times I looked in your eyes
All the times we rhapsodized
Do not love you will find no trust and
Do not touch you will find no such
Give me back my photos, will you?
You fucking whore I’ll kill you!

Every fake is everything
Some dull ache replace the sting
Rap stars brag and shoot each other
And entertain just like no other
We love thugs when they attack and
We love crime all black on black and
Isn’t this you, cruel-hearted fake?
Isn’t this more than you can take!

Found a bomb with big linch pins
Yay for the bullies, they always win
All sensation makes no sense
Some insane confidence
Isn’t this you, cruel-hearted fake?
Isn’t this more than you can take?
Scandalize now with such ease
Stress this secular disease
Sermon tells a soldier squeeze
The trigger on our enemies
We’re all alive, all alone
Til you come home
Please come home

Don’t believe a word
Just keep on dreamin’
Please don’t believe a word
Pretty soon we’ll wake up screamin’
Yeah don’t believe it!
Just keep on dreamin’
Please don’t believe a word
Pretty soon we’ll wake up screamin’

Non Dairy Creamer – Live

Be patient, 3EB fans, it’ll be worth the wait!

Third Eye Blind’s Site

Pete Yorn – Back and Fourth

Pete Yorn - Back and FourthNo, that’s not a typo.

Pete Yorn has released his fourth studio album, Back and Fourth (clever, huh?), the first to escape  “the trilogy” of musicforthemorningafter, Day I Forgot, and Nightcrawler.

This is definitely his best album since musicforthemorningafter, but sadly, it falls a little short. Not that Pete Yorn is one to make shockingly life changing albums for the majority of the population, but I enjoyed the radio worthiness of musicforthemorningafter and have been known to sing “For Nancy” in the shower from time to time. Shut up…

Anyway, this album’s alright. Pretty mediocre through and through. He does seem to have a bit more of a country twang on this album, especially in the first single, “Don’t Wanna Cry”. This song is right on the other side of the border of what I consider an okay amount of country in a song (see: Old 97’s).

This album did come out just in the knick of time, though. With tracks like “Paradise Cove”, “Last Summer” and “Thinking of You”, this album easily could be that summer-camp romance album.

The only thing that saves this album is Yorn’s voice. Apparently he’s gone through some pretty nasty rough patches since ’06’s Nightcrawler, and you can tell. His voice has this hint of sorrow in it that hasn’t quite been there before, especially on “Long Time Nothing New”, which is easily the best song on the album. Minimal guitar and piano set an amazing stage for that voice of his, without leaving the song sounding underproduced and naked (as if, when you’re working with producers like Mike Yogus).

The album in general is well produced and the cover art hails a throw back to 60’s Doors, but all in all, it’s certainly not going to be the album of the year. C

Pete Yorn’s Site

Regina Spektor – Far

Regina Spektor - FarRegina Spektor’s fifth studio album, Far, has reached the top 10 on the iTunes Top Albums Chart in the UK within 24 hours of being released.

Pretty damn crazy, huh? Now that I have thouroughly listened to this album, I can understand why.

Spektor doesn’t just begin this album, she leaps into it full force with the insanely addictive “The Calculation”. Rollicking piano topped off with some of Spektor’s sweeter tones and by far the catchiest chorus makes this my favorite track on the album. I hate that. I hate when my favorite track is the first, because then I feel like I neglect the rest of the album. Well, I’ll try my best…

This album seems to be a mix of new material and old live tracks that she just never compiled, like “Folding Chair” and “Blue Lips”. There is a fine line between cute and cutesy that Spektor toes frequently, and she surely hasn’t lost that on this album. She incorporates all the whimsical story-telling of her prior albums, but far more produced. Apparently, this album’s getting a lot of flack for that. I kinda like it.

Sometimes, especially on Soviet Kitsch, Spektor got even a little weird for me. This album definately has mainstream capabilities, much like 2006’s Begin to Hope. Half the tracks on here are single-worthy, including the first single, “Laughing With”, as well as “Human of the Year” and “Two Birds”.

I think the most amazing difference on this album is that it is FILLED with music. After so many years of Regina + piano + one drumstick, it’s weird to hear a sound so complete. Like, “Machine”, heavy piano with an electronic tilt and Spektor’s ghoulish, snarled vocals.

Something about this album reminds me of Tracy Chapman and I’m really not sure why. Spektor does get a bluesy vibe going on, especially with “One More Time With Feeling” and “Man of A Thousand Faces”.

This is really a well rounded album. There’s a mix of songs that either make you want to dance, or cry. Spektor is balls to the wall on this album. B

Regina Spektor’s Site

Rhett Miller – Mythologies

Rhett Miller - MythologiesYou will see that I did link to this album on Amazon, but you won’t find it there…

I even tried to find a link on EBay, nothing.

I am a rare album junkie I have decided. It’s an addiction. It started with Y Kant Tori Read and it’s gone to Rhett Miller’s Mythologies. I have tracked this album down and it makes me smile.

This album was released in 1989, making Mr. Miller a mere 18 years old. How. Freaking. Adorable. It’s amazing listening to this album back to back with his new release Rhett Miller. On Mythologies, it’s like a little window into the future of the Old 97’s front man. Naked, acoustic tracks and perhaps a slight British accent on Miller? Who knew. “Iron Child”, “Song for Truman Capote”, and “Still They Sing” easily could have been on The Instigator, Miller’s first well-known solo album. I love his acoustic stuff. I was actually a little disappointed in The Believer for that point, but it did quickly grow on me. I’d love to see him do an acoustic solo show again. Then again, I’m just a sucker for anything acoustic.

He does have a few awkward teen moments with “Honey In My Tea” and “Days Between Stations” but obviously, he can hold his own in the music industry. If you can find one of the 1,000 hand numbered copies, sell a limb. It’s like a fountain of youth in Rhett Miller Land. A!

Rhett Miller’s Site, though you won’t find any mention of this album on there.

Rhett Miller – Self Titled

Rhett Miller - Self TitledIt’s amazing the shit you dig up while researching for a blog. It’s like uncovering a goldmine of information on someone…you know, kind of like stalking. I guess in a way, I spent today virtually stalking Rhett Miller. I feel kind of dirty.

Old 97’s front man and Texan heart throb released his fourth solo album, Rhett Miller, yesterday, and I’m diggin’ it.

Thing #1 I found out while virtually stalking Rhett Miller: He has a solo album that I had no idea even existed, Mythologies. I would have totally said that this was his third album had I not discovered this. I’m a huge fan of The Instigator, and while it did take me some time to come around (no pun intended) to The Believer, I do enjoy that album as well. I think it was just initially a little shocking to see the difference between The Instigator and The Believer, but this album is proving to be a delightful mix of the two. It seamlessly blends acoustic tracks, smooth as silk, overlaid with Miller’s classically vulnerable vocals, to pop-wonders filled with electric guitar, wild drums, and almost 60’s pop vocals.

Thing #2 I found out while virtually stalking Rhett Miller: His grandmother died recently, as did one of his favorite authors and personal hero, David Foster Wallace. I had heard so much about DFW, and eventually bought Infinite Jest. I thought that book was terrible. Like really, really terrible. Apparently DFW committed suicide last year after decades of depression, which sucks. When I first listened to Rhett Miller, I did notice a slight darkness to this album that his prior efforts lacked. Speaking in reference to the opening track of this album, “Nobody Says I Love You Anymore”, Miller says: “…I realized every lyric in the song I could bring back to something about my relationship with [Wallace’s] work. Like the lines, “Same time tomorrow, I know where you will be/Same place as always, right here beside me.” I imagined the copy I have of “Infinite Jest,” which is held together by duct tape and sits on my bedside table. Every morning when I wake up, it’s basically the first thing I see.” I never knew Miller was such an avid reader. I think anyone who has ever picked up a book has a book like that. I remember Hunter S. Thompson dying, and Kurt Vonnegut, and feeling something inside me die a little. Like we have these emissions of light in a world so dark and poof, they’re gone. With the state of society today, will we ever have writers like that again? Will we have people willing to tell the media to fuck off and write whatever the hell they want to write? Or eventually, will all media be so censored, that we’ll never have this again? Everyone will end up too afraid to test the system.

Whoa…I got way off track there. Back to Rhett Miller…

Like I said, this album has a degree of macabre to it that I have never heard out of Miller, but it still has elements of that southern sweetness with “Like Love”, “I Need to Know Where I Stand”, “If It’s Not Love”, and “Sometimes” (which was apparently plagarized from his daughter, Soleil. Royalties anyone?).

Amid all those sweet little love songs, Miller does throw in some ones to tap your foot to, like “Caroline”, “Another Girlfriend” and “Refusing Temptation”, as well as some tracks eerily reminiscent of early Elvis Costello, like “Bonfire”, “Haphazard”, and “Lashes”.

Thing #3 I found out while virtually stalking Rhett Miller: He is doing a guest thing over at Magnet Magazine this week. Warning: extremely charming Texan. He actually says “…holla!” *snicker*

All in all, this album is good, and the more I listen to it, the more I like it. B

Rhett Miller’s Solo Site
Old 97’s Site