Sound — 9
Really an awe-inspiring album, especially in composition and recording. The amount of layering and quality is fantastic, specifically apparent in songs like "The Perfect Crime #2", which has an off-kilter, but non-compromising jazz/groove sound to it. The band switches on and off between mixtures of acoustic rock, indie, classic rock, and folk music, that all seems to blend together perfectly. I truly believe every track on this album is brilliant and ear catching, although their single "O Valencia" is not nearly the strongest song on the album. One of my favorite tracks in this category: "The Island: Come and See/The Landlords Daughter/You'll not feel the drowning", a Tempest inspired 3 part track, is breathtaking, especially in conjunction with the catchy "The Crane Wife 3."
Lyrics — 9
Colin Meloy is a brilliant singer songwriter, but inhuman in the way he writes lyrics, in a good way. The every line on this album seems to have deep meaning, whether Colin is telling you a shakesperian tale of love and loss, to a retelling of a japanese folk tale, a chilling folk song of his own creation, or reminiscing about the Civil War (in his duet "Yankee Bayonet" with singer songwriter Laura Veirs), Colin paints a vivid picture in your mind about what he's singing about, cheering you up or chilling you to the core. Colin's voice is also fantastic, although people who aren't fans of the Decemberists or indie rock may dislike his strange vowel pronunciation and vibrato (which I personally love).
Overall Impression — 10
If anyone though that it would be impossible for the Decemberists to top Picaresque, they are fortunately very mistaken. The Crane Wife is easily their best work to date, and personally, I think the epic quality of it's song structures, it's superbly written tracks and lyrics, and incredible amount of detail paid to even the most subtle aspects of the song, could very well make this album a masterpiece. I suggest you buy it immediately.