The Crane Wife
Styles: folk-pop, indie pop, chamber pop
Others: Neutral Milk Hotel, Grandaddy, Kings of Convenience
Seriously. This is getting fucking ridiculous. How can a band be this good? And not the kind of good where you hear a new song and post about it on your blog and everyone collectively shits themselves for a month and then moves on a few weeks later, but the kind of good where a band releases consistently fantastic and worthwhile and amazing music for four fucking years. What the fuck have The Arcade Fire been doing since 2004? Oh, they released a 7-inch with a song they already had recorded? Awesome. The Decemberists released two full-lengths and an EP that are just as good as anything on Funeral. Touring is no excuse either, Mr. Butler. The Decemberists are one of the most well-traveled acts out there, and I'm willing to bet the number of shows they've played is at least in the same ballpark as your lovable band of Canadian roustabouts.
I don't know why I'm picking on The Arcade Fire. I like them, and I loved Funeral, and it's not like The Decemberists have been toiling in obscurity for the past four years. On the contrary, they've gained a following that only increases with each new release. And rightfully so, because no matter how good their last album was, The Decemberists' track records proves that the next one is going to blow it away. And The Crane Wife is no exception; it's the band's most ambitious, mind-blowing, and best record yet.
I don't even know what to say about this record. Writing about music is kind of ridiculous anyway; you're taking something that's inherently subjective and contorting it so that it kind of, not really, actually doesn't fit into this nice, neat objective box. (And yes, I'm well aware of the irony of stating how pointless writing about music is in a record review, so save your e-mails.) It's not that "words don't do it justice" or some other bullshit cliché; it's the fact that if I were to write about the songs here, I'd probably have to use obtuse words that actually make no sense, and those don't help anybody. Go read Paste if that's what you're looking for.
The point is, The Crane Wife is God damn amazing. Have I used "amazing" too many times for you? Here's some more adjectives: astonishing, astounding, bewildering, breathtaking, extraordinary, impressive, magnificent, marvelous, remarkable, spectacular, staggering, stunning, stupendous, terrific, wonderful. That should cover it.
So what if some of the songs sound like Fleetwood Mac or Jethro Tull or Edgar Winter? Does anyone really give a shit if the band is "prog" or not now? Why the fuck does that matter anyway? All I know is that when it hits 8:26 during "The Landlord's Daughter," everything explodes and I lose my shit every time. Yes, Colin Meloy writes songs about soldiers and murderers and lovers. Yes, it is awesome that the band's major-label debut contains their two longest album cuts yet. Yes, it's also awesome that one of those songs is a suite based on a Japanese folk tune. You're going to hear all of that from the other blowhards writing reviews for this album, which you for some reason read instead of just listening to the record. It takes all the fun out of it. Who wants to read words about how music sounds or makes one person feel when you could just listen to it yourself? You should have stopped reading this a while ago. Make up your own damn mind.
If you want me to break it down, I will. The Crane Wife is one of the best records, if not the best, I've heard in at least the past year. It will probably hold the number one spot on my top-whatever year-end list, which I will still make even though organizing music into lists may actually be more pointless than writing about it. I honestly almost quit writing about music because of this record, but I'm just too much of a hypocrite to do it. Just do yourself a favor and listen to this album. Not because I told you to, or your favorite blogger told you to, or because some other bullshit website or magazine that pretends like their opinion actually matters told you to. Listen to it because you'll be supporting one of the hardest-working and most devoted bands out there today, and that's got to count for something.
1. The Crane Wife 3
2. The Island/Come and See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll Not Feel the Drowning
3. Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)
4. O Valencia!
5. The Perfect Crime #2
6. When the War Came
7. Shankill Butchers
9. The Crane Wife 1 and 2
10. Sons and Daughters