Fans of the beloved Portland, Ore., rock group The Decemberists already know the band for its outsized ambition. Frontman Colin Meloy's blend of sweeping melodies and hyperliterate, deliberately anachronistic references won the group major indie-pop laurels — and, as of its last album, the attention of a major label. But The Decemberists' newest project promises new heights of bombast: Its new record, The Hazards of Love, is a sprawling 17-part narrative song-cycle.
The band premiered the music of Hazards in its entirety, and played music from the rest of its repertory, as part of NPR Music's official South by Southwest showcase.
The Hazards of Love tells the woodland melodrama of a character named Margaret — voiced by Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, alternately — who encounters such obstacles as a lecherous villain, forest royalty and rapacious, shape-shifting fauna. As for the music itself, Meloy draws heavily from British folk, but also adds plenty of synthesizers and hard rock verging on heavy metal. Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Robyn Hitchcock also make guest appearances on the record.
Set to be released on March 24, The Hazards of Love is the band's fifth full-length release. The Decemberists' previous album, 2006's The Crane Wife, was named the top CD of 2006 by listeners of NPR's All Songs Considered. This Wednesday-night concert will also mark the third time the full band has performed a live webcast for NPR Music.