98.) The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (2009)

Way to follow up a divisive record with another, huh?

Whatever. 2009 has seen me become smitten with The Decemberists prog-rock-opera, The Hazards of Love and though there are a bunch of records released in '09 that I like more, I don't think there's one that I've listened to more than Hazards.

People knock the Decemberists for being pretentious and it's a valid knock, they are. Colin Meloy writes lyrics with big words and literary aspirations - that's never been a secret, but the thing that sets Hazards apart (I mean, besides it being a song cycle about woodland queens, rakes and shapeshifters) is the fact that the thing fucking rocks.

What I love about the record is you can throw the story away. It doesn't matter. I still don't really know what happens, but I love the shit out of these songs. In fact, I consistently find myself listening to "Hazards of Love 2" hoping that maybe this time it won't be sad and could reasonably make for a good wedding song. It never does. But it's still pretty damn beautiful.

Aside form that there's "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid" with an MVP vocal performance from My Brightest Diamond's Sharah Worden, not to mention "The Rake's Song" which, for my money is right up there with the very best in the Decemberists entire canon.

The songs individually are great, but The Hazards of Love really works as a fully realized piece of art. Whether or not you care about the story is your business, but the sequencing here really works to take you for a ride.

I love the balls of the whole thing. It shouldn't work. It's completely ridiculous, but for some reason it does. And I'll say this, as far as "rock operas" go, The Hazards of Love is a whole lot easier to stomach than Tommy that's for sure.

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