The Decemberists

The Crane Wife (Capitol)

Phases & Stages

The Decemberists

The Crane Wife (Capitol)

It's a tall tale only Colin Meloy could spin out of his hyperrustic imagination: Scrappy scullery maid makes good and swaps her ratty dress and stained apron for drippy jewels and haute couture. For the Decemberists' fourth full-length album, the Portland, Ore., quintet signed to Capitol Records after years of laboring on indie labels. And while the Chris Walla-produced Wife certainly boasts a patina of money, Meloy's songwriting is still populated by the usual scoundrels, rapscallions, and distressed damsels. Particularly powerful are war-torn duet "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)" with Laura Veirs and spirited "The Perfect Crime #2." The Crane Wife could be the best Robyn Hitchcock album made in several years; the lyrical marriage of whimsy and death bear the fruits of a master class led by the former Soft Boy. Let's just hope that scullery maid doesn't get herself knocked up and abandoned by the scoundrel who wooed her.

****

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