This is a hard album to review because it is very dense, and requires a number of active listening sessions to fully appreciate. I have followed The Decemberists for years now, and I find it thrilling that even after they sign to a major record label they continue to buck the conventions of modern pop music (unlike say, Death Cab for Cutie, who have lost some of their indie rock edge). The Crane Wife was a very ambitious project, and I love that album, but that album is no where near the sheer scope of The Hazards of Love. Hazards is an album that is meant to be played from beginning to end as it conveys a constant and consistent idea. Think The Tain, just much longer, and much more ambitious.
But what really shocks me is that a major record company can release an album with no real radio friendly singles. The only track that comes close is 'The Rake's Song', and the lyrics to that song are too dark and morbid for it to get any real air time. But don't misunderstand, I love the fact that one of my favorite bands continues to evolve and challenge how we think about the concept of the 'concept album'.
If you are a long time fan, then there is a huge chance that you will like this. Honestly though, if you have never heard an entire Decemberists album before, then this may prove a struggle as a first album, but that should not discourage anyone, this truly is a great album. I would recommend this fully to anybody who has an open mind toward music.
I for one love it, as I love all of The Decemberist albums. I could be biased, but I would encourage anyone reading this to at least give it a full listen while relaxing with a glass of wine.