Decemberists play _Hazards of Love_ as narrative

The band will play The Blue Note on Wednesday.
The Decemberists stay dry under their five-person umbrella. The group will play the entirety of their latest album, ‘The Hazards of Love’ this Wednesday at The Blue Note. Courtesy of Capitol Records

Within the past month, Radiohead has released a string of singles, by doing so confirming front man Thom Yorke's statement that the band is — for the foreseeable and immediate future — done with albums and instead focusing on the release of individual tracks.

And yet, on March 24, The Decemberists released The Hazards of Love, a progressive-folk rock opera, running 58 minutes and 36 seconds, meant to be enjoyed and understood in succession as an entire album. This is a distinctly different approach from Radiohead's single-song method.

"When we presented this album to (Capitol Records), we were nervous that they were just going to be like, 'Are you kidding me?'" bassist Nate Query said. "There aren't any radio songs. There aren't any songs that even stand alone."

Query said they were surprised the label was very supportive of the decision to release a long form album in this era of short attention spans.

"Capitol was very cool about not expecting us to try to do anything differently," Query said. "Any changes you hear on Hazards of Love are because we had a larger budget (than previous albums). We had Tucker Martine for the first time."

Query was referring to the Hazards of Love producer, whose eclectic body of work includes albums for artists such as jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and orchestral folk songwriter Sufjan Stevens.

The Decemberists will stand by their commitment to the album as a form of storytelling when they play Wednesday night at The Blue Note.

"We're doing the Hazards of Love for the first set, and then we do sort of a hodgepodge of back catalogue stuff for a second set, or an extended encore, depending how much time we have," Query said.

Most bands learn, grow and develop during their time playing together, but few believe powerfully enough in the idea that music is a committed experience in narration to pen a nearly hourly song opera. Perhaps The Decemberists' faith in music as a literary art is forged by their closeness and trust in one another's musicianship.

"Over time, we started to develop more confidence as a band," Query said. "(Frontman) Colin (Meloy)'s grown to write things that are more daunting in a technical way, as well as in a creative way. These are some of my favorite people to play music with ever. You get kind of used to it, but there's a total rush, even from playing stuff we've played a hundred times together. I definitely have that feeling quite often: the feeling of being lucky to work with all these guys and to keep playing."

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