Featuring two three-part suites, The Crane Wife represents a significant development in the ambitions of gifted band from Portland, Oregon, The Decemberists. Their musical style, however, retains the bullish folk-rock character of 2005's Picaresque, its 12-string guitars fattened with the grainy textures of wheezing pump-organ, hurdy-gurdy, accordion, and dulcimer appropriate to singer-songwriter Colin Meloy's beautifully-wrought murder ballads, Civil War tragedies and doomed Shakespearean romances. Avian hardship is a recurrent theme, with the wounded subject of opener "The Crane Wife 3" redeemed later in "The Crane Wife 1 & 2". The other suite, "The Island", shifts from marshland bird-life to a trad-folk narrative of rape and murder, its pulsing Hammond organ conjuring up the bizarre prospect of Emerson, Lake & Palmer covering Dock Boggs. Recorded with help from local talent, the result has the faux-antique manner of Espers' second album, without the sombre attitude.
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