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Arts and Entertainment

Decemberists "The Crane Wife"

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Though the biography on their website claims the musical group known as the Decemberists are a group of vagabonds brought together serendipitously and subsequently joined together like so many lone wolves to form a proper pack. They are, in fact, a talented group of musicians based in Portland, Oregon, led by singer/songwriter and the heir to the Rivers Cuomo School of looking like an unassuming hipster, Colin Meloy. If it seems that we're tending to the side of being overtly garrulous in our review of their new album The Crane Wife, we are, it's just the effect of their music on us. If you're not familiar with the music of the Decemberists, just think of sea shanties sung by the Shins with the instrumentation of Arcade Fire and you're almost there.

The Crane Wife, which "drops" (We're taking it back) on October 4, 2006, is described on their website as a "lovely would've-been-a-double-in-the-seventies-record", and that description is far more than adequate.

Borrowing its title from a Japanese folk-tale about a man's selfless aid of an ailing creature and later coming to terms with his own avarice when this good deed gives him the proverbial "gift horse" that he no sooner gets than looks directly in the choppers. Their album takes this story and interweaves themes of war, loss, Shakespearean tragedy, obeying one's mother, crime, and even takes a journey directly into the 70s with a twelve minute forty-two second epic tale of adventure, intrigue and death in four movements.

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Clocking in at over an hour in length one might see listening to this album as a Herculean effort, but thanks to it's indie-country-shanty-progressive-rock-epic-pop style we've taking great joy in taking the reigns from Sisyphus on this album and repeating the task again and again. The album isn't sheer pretension, however, it also combines these heavy themes with sweeping and beautiful melodies and heartbreaking vocals with instrumentation almost as multifarious as Colin Meloy's lexicon used in the story-driven songs of the Decemberists. All of these elements together create a record that is nigh impossible to pull from our listening rotation.

With the release of The Crane Wife, The Decemberists' first major-label effort (Formerly of Kill Rock Stars and now with Capitol), comes a nationwide tour, starting in their hometown of Portland, Oregon and coming to LA -- for one show only -- at the Wiltern on Saturday October 21, 2006. Tickets are still on sale, and, having seen them play their amazing live show -- which includes dueling accordions, singing along, audience participation, and props like cardboard whales -- at smaller venues such as the Henry Fonda Music Box, we have no doubt that they'll be able to play to a house as large as the Wiltern.

Readers can rest assured that we'll be in the first section of the pit singing along with Meloy's melodious and heartbreaking refrains.

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