The Hazards of Love

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For the EP by Anne Briggs, see The Hazards of Love (EP).
The Hazards of Love
Studio album by The Decemberists
Released March 24, 2009
Recorded 2008
Genre Progressive rock, indie rock, folk rock
Length 58:36
Label Capitol/Rough Trade
Producer Tucker Martine
The Decemberists chronology
The Crane Wife
The Hazards of Love
The King Is Dead
Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 73/100[1]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[2]
Blender 2/5 stars[3]
Robert Christgau (C)[4]
Consequence of Sound 4.5/5 stars[5]
Drowned in Sound 4/5 stars[6] 3.5/5 stars[7]
The Observer 4/5 stars[8]
Paste [9]
Pitchfork Media (5.7/10)[10]
PopMatters (8/10)[11]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[12]
The Skinny 4/5 stars[13]
Spin 2.5/5 stars[14]
Sputnikmusic 4.5/5 stars[15]
Tiny Mix Tapes 3/5 stars[16]
Under the Radar (6/10)[17]

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.[18] 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,[19] 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.[19]


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"). He kidnaps Margaret ("The Abduction of Margaret") and then the Queen ruthlessly breaks her promise by inviting the Rake to violate Margaret and assists his escape from William by parting a raging river ("The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing"). William arrives at the river but is unable to cross 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 approach the river, the lovers vow to marry each other by drowning themselves in the river while William is still a mortal man. 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 January 15, 2009, "The Rake's Song" became available as a free download on the band's MySpace page. This was followed on February 16, 2009, by "The Hazards of Love 1", again on MySpace.

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.[20]

This album entered the US charts at #14, selling 19,000 copies in its first week.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23] The script was written and directed by James Hugh Keenan Campbell and Charles Harries, and starred Montreal actors Emily Skahan, John Pleasants, and Katie Scharf among others. Robin Warner, a Montreal jazz bassist, directed the six person pit band.[24][25]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Colin Meloy except where noted.

  1. "Prelude" (Jenny Conlee) – 3:04
  2. "The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)" – 4:19
  3. "A Bower Scene" – 2:09
  4. "Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)" – 4:07
  5. "The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)" – 4:26
  6. "The Queen's Approach" – 0:29
  7. "Isn't It a Lovely Night?" – 3:39
  8. "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid" – 6:27
  9. "An Interlude" – 1:40
  10. "The Rake's Song" – 3:16
  11. "The Abduction of Margaret" – 2:07
  12. "The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing" – 3:56
  13. "Annan Water" – 5:12
  14. "Margaret in Captivity" – 3:08
  15. "The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)" – 3:22
  16. "The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)" – 1:31
  17. "The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)" – 5:57


  1. ^ "The Hazards Of Love Reviews". Metacritic. 2009-03-24. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  2. ^ "The Hazards of Love - The Decemberists". Allmusic. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "The Decemberists". Robert Christgau. 
  5. ^ [2][dead link]
  6. ^ "The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love". Drowned in Sound. 
  7. ^ "The Decemberists - 'The Hazards of Love' (Rough Trade)". 
  8. ^ Thomson, Graeme (March 15, 2009). "Pop Review: The Decemberists, The Hazards of love". London: The Observer. 
  9. ^ "The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love". Paste. 
  10. ^ "The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love". Pitchfork Media. 
  11. ^ "The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love". PopMatters. 
  12. ^ "The Hazards Of Love". Rolling Stone. 
  13. ^ "The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love". The Skinny. 
  14. ^ "The Decemberists, 'The Hazards of Love' (Capital)". Spin. 
  15. ^ "The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (staff review)". Sputnikmusic. 
  16. ^ "The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love". Tiny Mix Tapes. 
  17. ^ "The Hazards of Love". Under the Radar. 
  18. ^ "Decemberists reveal The Hazards of Love date, tracklist". Pitchfork. December 10, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  19. ^ a b "The Decemberists: 'The Hazards of Love'". Top40 Charts. January 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  20. ^ "Streaming of Upcoming The Hazards of Love". Noise Press. March 22, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  21. ^ "Kelly Clarkson Hangs On To Billboard #1". MTV News. March 25, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-13. 
  22. ^ "Northwest Film Forum". March 11, 2010. Retrieved 2012-07-08. 
  23. ^ "Love, nymphs, and the occasional cliche". The McGill Daily. February 9, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  24. ^ "Review: The Hazards of Love". The Montreal Gazette. February 9, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-26. 
  25. ^ "The Hazards of Love: A Folk Opera". Bloody Underrated. February 12, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-26.

External links[edit]