Top Alternative Albums: The Decemberists – The Crane Wife – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.
There are some groups that, on the whole, I’m a little underwhelmed with, but they have one album, usually right smack dab in the middle of their catalog, that’s absolutely fantastic. That’s the case, for me at least, with The Decemberists. I’m not over enamored with their early work – Castaways and Cutouts, Her Majesty The Decemberists, and Picaresque – and neither am I particularly fond of their more recent releases – The Hazards of Love, and The King is Dead – but The Crane Wife is a shining gem in the midst of their discography.
The Decemberists are a group that can easily come across as the smartest dude in the room who wants to be absolutely sure that everyone else knows exactly how intelligent he is; in other words, the person at the party I avoid at all costs. Lead singer/songwriter Colin Meloy (at various points) majored in English, Theatre, and Creative writing, and boy can you hear it in his songs. Either he has the most astounding vocabulary of any writer I know, or spends an overabundance of time with his thesaurus. I’ve often joked that I wish I were a member of The Decemberists so I could get away with rhyming “Peloponnesus” and “Telekinesis”.
On The Crane Wife, none of that verbal peacocking is at all diminished, nor is the melodramatic tone of the music at all tempered – I mean, Nikolai Vavilov, and the words “asteraceae” (that’s the family of flowers that includes the Daisy and Sunflower, in case you were wondering) and “solanum” (the genus of plants containing the Potato and Tomato) are used in successive lines in a song about storing food in preparation for war – but somehow, in this case, it just works. The musical underpinnings and melodies are so good, it makes it easy to forgive any pretensions, and Meloy’s voice, which on earlier releases was a bit harsh on the ears, here sounds fuller and less forced.
One thing I took from this album was the fact that acoustic recordings don’t have to sound mellow or restrained – and I think that definitely comes through on “Sit & Wait“, the opening track of my new CD. Jason Rubal, the producer I worked with on the new CD, also mentioned that the second verse of “Lighthouse“, the closing track of the EP, reminded him of the Decemberists. Check it out for yourself and let me know if you hear it too!
Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.
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