The Hazards of Love
|The Hazards of Love|
|Studio album by The Decemberists|
|Released||March 24, 2009|
|Genre||Progressive rock, indie rock, folk rock|
|The Decemberists chronology|
|Consequence of Sound|||
|Drowned in Sound|||
|Tiny Mix Tapes|||
|Under the Radar|||
The Hazards of Love is the fifth album by the American indie rock band The Decemberists, released through Capitol Records and Rough Trade in 2009. The album was inspired by an Anne Briggs EP titled The Hazards of Love. According to the band, frontman Colin Meloy set out to write a song with the album's title—eventually leading to an entire album. Becky Stark (of Lavender Diamond), Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond), and Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) provide guest vocals throughout the album, while Robyn Hitchcock makes a cameo guitar appearance in "An Interlude".
The Hazards of Love is a rock opera, with all songs contributing to a unified narrative, similar to the use of recurring stories in The Crane Wife. The plot is a love story: a woman named Margaret (voiced by Stark) falls in love with a shape-shifting boreal forest dweller named William (voiced by Meloy). William's mother, a jealous fairy queen (voiced by Worden) and the villainous Rake (also voiced by Meloy) bring conflict to the album's story arc.
While riding through the taiga, Margaret finds an injured fawn. When she stops to help it, the fawn changes into a young man named William, and the two make love ("The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)"). Margaret soon learns she is pregnant ("A Bower Scene") and flees to the forest to find William ("Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)"). William comes to Margaret and proclaims his love for her ("The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)"), but a short mysterious instrumental announces the threat of William's mother, the Forest Queen ("The Queen's Approach") and the end of the first "act".
William and Margaret reminisce about their first meeting and anticipate the birth of their child ("Isn't It a Lovely Night?") when they are discovered by the Forest Queen. William begs the Queen to allow him to be with Margaret, but the Queen accuses him of being ungrateful, pointing out that she rescued him from the human world when he was a baby and bestowed on him immortality. Their exchange continues until the Queen resolves to allow William one night as a mortal man with Margaret, but afterwards reclaim him forever ("The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid"). Another short instrumental ("An Interlude") marks the end of the second "act."
Elsewhere, we meet the Rake, a widower who feels no remorse about having murdered his three children ("The Rake's Song"). Ruthlessly breaking her promise, the Queen commands the Rake to kidnap Margaret ("The Abduction of Margaret") and violate her, then further flaunts her power by parting a raging river to allow his escape ("The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing"). William pursues the Rake, but is unable to cross the river until he offers his own life in exchange for safe passage ("Annan Water").
The Rake gloats over Margaret, while she calls for William to rescue her ("Margaret in Captivity"). Before the Rake can strike, the ghosts of his three murdered children appear ("The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)"). William arrives and escapes with Margaret ("The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)"), but, as they are crossing the river, it takes its claim over William's life, drowning both him and Margaret. As they sink into the water, William and Margaret proclaim their love a final time, reflecting that, in death, "the hazards of love" can no longer trouble them ("The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)").
On March 13, 2009, The Decemberists announced that the album would be released on iTunes on March 17, 2009. The album was released on iTunes Australia on March 14, 2009. On March 20, 2009, Entertainment Weekly began streaming the full album on imeem.
This album entered the US charts at #14, selling 19,000 copies in its first week.
The album's artwork direction and concept were by Mario Hugo, with illustration by Carson Ellis and Colin Meloy
After the album's release, four filmmakers (Peter Sluszka, Julia Pott, Guilherme Marcondes, and Santa Maria) made an animated visual accompaniment to the music, Here Come the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized. It does not include narrative elements, but is related through the shape of the music. It has been shown publicly in a few locations.
In February 2012, Player's Theatre - in Montreal, Canada - staged the album under the name "The Hazards of Love: A Folk Opera" with dialogue written to accompany the original Decemberists music. The script was written and directed by James Hugh Keenan Campbell and Charles Harries, and starred Montreal actors Emily Skahan and John Pleasants, among others. Robin Warner, a Montreal jazz bassist, directed the six person pit band.
Track listing 
All songs written by Colin Meloy except where noted.
- "Prelude" (Jenny Conlee) – 3:04
- "The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)" – 4:19
- "A Bower Scene" – 2:09
- "Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)" – 4:07
- "The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)" – 4:26
- "The Queen's Approach" – 0:29
- "Isn't It a Lovely Night?" – 3:39
- "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid" – 6:27
- "An Interlude" – 1:40
- "The Rake's Song" – 3:16
- "The Abduction of Margaret" – 2:07
- "The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing" – 3:56
- "Annan Water" – 5:12
- "Margaret in Captivity" – 3:08
- "The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)" – 3:22
- "The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)" – 1:31
- "The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)" – 5:57
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