Saturday, November 28, 2009

Number Ten The Crane Wife

#10 The Crane Wife – The Decemberists 2006

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)" (duet with Laura Veirs)
4. "O Valencia!"
5. "The Perfect Crime #2"
6. "When the War Came"
7. "Shankill Butchers"
8. "Summersong"
9. "The Crane Wife 1 & 2"
10. "Sons & Daughters"

“And all the stars were crashing ‘round as I laid eyes on what I found.”

The Crane Wife is not a usual record, and my appreciation for it didn’t grow in the usual way; from repeated listening. Its impact was instant and this ranking is most certainly a reverberation from how far it went the first time I listened to it.

I approached the Crane Wife and the Decemberists naked. Had no inkling who they were or what their sound was like. If I had, perhaps the impact wouldn’t have been so penetrating, who knows. I was researching a lot of the top albums of the year sites and this kept coming up and actually what drew me in was the cover artwork. A pale brownish-mustard colored frame with a time frozen drawing of an arm locked couple with but a drip of blood on the female’s dress.

In the blurbs on these top ten lists I discovered it was a concept record and that it was based loosely on a Japanese folk tale. That was it for my preview, no youtube, or website hunts. I just bought the record on a whim and gave it a shot.

The Crane Wife is bold, a hard to do thing, its vistas are wide and peppered with strange old time references and vibes. The lyrics read like literature. The idea of laying down a bass line to Shakespeare or Faulkner is far from appealing, but nonetheless here are these songs like Yankee Bayonet, Shankhill Butchers, and The Perfect Crime falling on top of each other, held together by some wonderfully unfamiliar glue.

Coupling these songs with lines like…

“By land, by sea, by dirigible”

“But oh, did you see all the dead of Manassas
All the bellies and the bones and the bile?”

…Is the voice of Colin Meloy, overtly austere and folkishly formal. So how do all of these seemingly unappealing traits mesh together into an intense, moving work?

Part of the reason the Crane Wife is so appealing to me is that I can’t answer that very question. I shouldn’t like it, but I do, even more so I love it, number 10 favorite of the “oughts” love it.

From the opening strums of Crane Wife 3 to the closing repeated chorus of “hear all the bombs fade away” from Sons and Daughters I get lost in the odd, beautiful world of The Crane Wife. This album would be a hard sell to a lot of people I know. I would have never tried it if I had cheated and listened to a part of it before hand. That’s a lesson I try to remember.


  1. 10. Lucinda Williams - World Without Tears

    This album has that weird, creepy, vulnerable feel to it that Time Out of Mind has. I love the guitar with tremelo all over the place. Amazing Lucinda lyrics - honest and dark.

  2. KH - Mmmmm Lucinda.. I need to go back and replay World Without Tears... She definately gets the best musicians to play on her stuff.

  3. #10- The Mayhaws- Lonely Places

    This may be a wild card, but I really do love this record. Even though it's a "local" band, this record was so well done. The songwriting, the instrumentation, everything. It's one of those records I have put on repeatedly while on a road trip and just sing out loud to. Besides, the title track, "Lonely Places" is one of the best damned honky-tonk songs written, in my opinion.

  4. Read this blog on my feelings about Lonely Places...

    "hey little brown bird lighter than a paper sack.."

    Hot damn!