stepping towards the epic "hazards of love", here the decemberists venture into longer and more complex music making there's much play with styles, moving on seemingly effortlessly from picaresque to this altogether more complete and dramatic album. there's classical reference, soft and hard metaphor (qv "i drew my pistol, i drew my saber...") musical adventurousness, the usual mix of brandy and death, olde-worlde folk charm and now more brassy rock and rolla tunes as well. It almost feels not as if the decembersits are growing in themselves, but are growing us, the listeners, for something yet more shocking and titanic to come.
then there's golden moments too, summersong is particularly light in touch, poignancy in yankee bayonet, and sad and glorious tragic in the romeo & juliette-esque "o valencia." Then there is some levity in the modern day robbery-disco themed "perfect crime" it's all very mature, and very deft.
my only gripe is certain rhymes and themes (murder/rape/death in childhood) that threaten define the decemberists now seem to recurr a little too often. for example, i now wonder if Colin Meloy ever "walks" anywhere or always "rambles" where he goes. it may be that underpinning all this is that the band's imagination is wearing out, or perhaps this is just striving after perfection: it does seem to get closer each time. as it is, this weakness for affectation is forgivable in the midst of such musical triumph, and can even become endearing, in the end.