"The Crane Wife"

(Capitol Records 2006)Decemberists - The Crane Wife

Swept up in a wave of hype, it is unlikely that you have never heard of The Decemberists. The indie darlings from Portland certainly made 2006 their year. Claiming that their album "The Crane Wife" is based on a Japanese children's story, the songs talk of bayonets, murderers and Yankees. Though The Decemberists seem to attach themselves to their antique inspiration, the light melodies are anything but outdated as keyboard and guitar solos always seem to show up in the nick of time.

The Decemberists jump into action with "The Island: -Come And See -- The Landlord's Daughter -- You'll Not Feel The Drowning," a song compromised of three short songs. The fluid 70s sounding intro of "Come And See" betrays the album's folksy concept as, similarly, "The Landlord's Daughter" stays loose and lets out a wail before everything is again straightened up with the gentle and understated conclusion "You'll Not Feeling The Drowning." That 70s nightclub feel continues as cymbals click and bass thumps on "The Perfect Crime #2" before keyboard and guitar go into a friendly battle of the solos and you are only left wondering what the perfect crime #1 might sound like.

The male-female duet on "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)" is light and lilting before the stripped down "Shankill Butchers," which puts the focus on singer Colin Meloy's voice like no other song on the album. Insistent percussion gets your toes tapping on the Romeo and Juliet style tale of forbidden love that is "O Valencia!" while "Summersong" keeps the bouncy upbeat melodies coming.

The Decemberists somehow turn "The Crane Wife" into an indie rock meets folk meet disco album. With clean instrumentation and refreshingly light melodies, the somehow manage to make it all work on their lyrically driven songs.


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