Saturday, July 18, 2009

Inspirational Music, part 5: The Hazards of Love

I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate some music that I've been listening a lot to lately, especially as I head into final rewrites for the show and seek inspiration for stage pictures, etc: the new album by The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love.

What can I say? I'd never really listened to the band at all, but I heard this album reviewed on NPR, and it sounded kind of neat, so I went on youtube and listened to some of the full tracks that people had posted. Finally, I bought the album* at Border's** and have been listening to it pretty obsessively over the last month or so.

It's a concept album- probably one of the reasons I'm so into it is that it tells a cool fantasy story that involves shapeshifting (like The Last Unicorn!). In this case, the heroine of the story, Margaret, is riding in the forest when she encounters a snow white faun, wounded and trapped in the underbrush. She tries to free it, but the faun transforms into a handsome young man, and they, um...(blushes). So it turns out she gets pregnant, and she wanders into the forest to find the young man again. They meet and set up house together in a one of the forest bowers- but complications ensue. The reason the man is a shapeshifter is that he's the adopted 'son' of the Forest Queen- a Titiania-like force of nature that has absolute dominion over the forest. She's also fiercely jealous and overprotective of him and sees Margaret as a threat. In order to get her out of the way, she enlists the help of the Rake- a wandering womanizer, rapist and child murderer (he killed his three kids after his wife died because they were making it too difficult for him to put the moves on the ladies. He's not very nice in other words) who is only too glad to despoil and destroy our heroine. So the shapeshifter guy has to cross a terribly dangerous river to rescue his true love. Here are some tracks for you to listen to, with a bit of explanation about each. If you like what you hear, I strongly encourage you to download the album- we should use our cash to encourage this band to make more art like this!

First, the song The Wanting Comes in Waves- it's a conversation song between William, the shapeshifter, and his 'mother' the Forest Queen. The refrain of it actually gets me a little weepy, and it's a pretty cool tune that forwards the plot- he basically tries to bargain with his mother to be allowed at least one night of happiness with his love.

Second, the Rake's Song- this is the song the villain sings that introduces us to him. It's a lot of fun and also horrifying at the same time.

Third, the Queen's Rebuke. This is the first song I ever heard from this album, and it's AWESOME. The group got a guest artist (Shara Worden, of My Brightest Diamond) to sing the character, and she really gets to kick some ass during this song. It also fooled me- it made me think this band was really metal sounding, but apparently this is an unusual sound for them. In this song, the Queen appears to talk with the Rake once he's kidnapped Margaret.

OK, last one I promise- Annan Water. Remember that dangerous river I told you about- in the Queen's Rebuke the Queen works magic to get the Rake and Margaret across, but William is still stuck without a way to cross- and apparently this river is SUPER dangerous- like so full of rapids and whirlpools that there's no way to safely cross through conventional methods. So William sings this song in which he bargains with the river- telling the river that if it will calm and allow him to pass, he'll allow the river to claim him after he saves his true love. And the river hears him and agrees. This song gets me choked up a bit too- the part where he actually prays ("And if you calm...and let me pass...") is really pretty.

So that's all I'll post here, but I really encourage you to check it out- there's more awesomeness on this album than can be contained in a single blog post.

P.S.- tickets to "The Last Unicorn" went on sale July 15th. To reserve tickets either buy online at or call (773) 305-2897!

*Music executives: my story is why you are idiots for being overly restrictive and litigious about posting of songs this case my ability to listen online led to me paying you money!
**who are discontinuing CD sales! Stupid move, Border's, no more of my money will you get!


Anonymous said...

Hi there! You just posted a blog about my two favorite things - the Decemberists and The Last Unicorn! If I had a tail, it would be wagging. So excited to see the show!

-Jessica, Midland MI

Ed R said...

Hi Jessica,
Thanks! Look forward to seeing you there!