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The Decemberists create another fantasy epic through clever wordplay and complex orchestration on their latest release The Hazards of Love. Colin Meloy and company have crafted an album that out-stories 2006's epic Crane Wife.

In Hazards, listeners follow the tale of Margaret, a young woman who falls in love with a sometimes-man/sometimes-beast forest creature. There's an evil queen, and there’s a rake who murders his brood after his wife dies in childbirth.

Some of the guest artists who join the band include Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark as the voice of Margaret, and Rebecca Gates, formerly of the Spinanes, who makes a guest appearance on backing vocals.

While it plays out too fantastical at times, I found Hazards of Love charming and ultimately listenable. New listeners might not find it as accessible as the Decemberist’s earlier works, and its lack of any discernable single has hurt the album's chances for radio airplay. Fans of the band won't be disappointed, though, as the collection embodies the Decemberist’s unique vision, music, and style.

Artist: The Decemberists
Label: Capitol Records
Songs: (1) Prelude (2) The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone) (3) A Bower Scene (4) Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga) (5) The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All) (6) The Queen's Approach (7) Isn't It a Lovely Night? (8) The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid (9) An Interlude (10) The Rake's Song (11) The Abduction of Margaret (12) The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing (13) Annan Water (14) Margaret in Captivity (15) The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!) (16) The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise) (17) The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)

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