The Decemberists: The Crane Wife (10th Anniversary Edition) (Capitol/UMe) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Decemberists

The Crane Wife (10th Anniversary Edition)


Dec 09, 2016 The Decemberists Bookmark and Share

Ten years ago, Colin Meloy and his merry band of murder balladeers broke out from the indie label circuit with their Capitol Records debut, The Crane Wife. By that point, we all knew The Decemberists as a quirky Portland outfit with a flare for folk-tinged storytelling and a particular appeal to bookish liberal arts majors. Suddenly they were everywhere, poster children for hipster counter culture with mass appeal, rivaled only by such decade defining acts like Arcade Fire and Death Cab for Cutie. At the peak of this wave rides The Crane Wife, stunningly ambitious and maddeningly beautiful, as close to a flawless album as The Decemberists ever get.

Now we have the spectacular multi-disc reissue, containing the original album, a deluge of bonus material, including outtakes and alternate cuts and a hefty chunk of Meloy’s home demos. The concert Blu-ray filmed at the 9:30 club from 2006 is easily the most enjoyable, but the demos and outtakes are remarkably solid. Yes, Meloy’s lacerating voice is just as clear and strong even in these murky home recordings, the earliest skeletal frames that would become Decemberist epics like “The Island” or the titular “Crane Wife” cycle. These cuts are the most rewarding of the bunch, carving the process of this whole affair down to its bare bones.

The records are accompanied by a lengthy profile by David Fricke detailing the album’s production and legacy as well as a brief essay by Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda about returning to The Crane Wife over and over these last 10 years. At the heart of both is an attempt to detail precisely why this album is still poignant after 10 years; because it doesn’t exactly feel like a decade. Rather, The Crane Wife feels fixed and eternal, summoned from a history of music and storytelling that it draws on for inspiration. (

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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