There’s always an underlying current of anxiety when a beloved indie band makes the leap to the majors, particularly one with as precious and precise an aesthetic as practiced by The Decemberists. Rambling, fey epics about forbidden love in the 18th century, Colin Meloy’s bracingly literate pop songs are an anomaly on the modern musical landscape.
Thankfully, “The Crane Wife” is just as odd and sonically adventurous as its predecessors’ when’s the last time you heard some hot bouzouki action on a mainstream pop record? Building, as always, from an obscure fable of murky origin, Meloy fashions one wry tale after another’ as well as a pair of 12-minute tracks’ channeling the Seventies prog-rock vibe that fueled “The Tain” EP. “The Crane Wife” expands The Decemberists’ palette in subtle, strong ways, no doubt reassuring Capitol about money well-spent. They aren’t the only ones feeling assuaged; die-hard Decemberists fans are likewise breathing a collective sigh of relief.
– Preston Jones