Despite the fact that I’m not a pagan (instead characterizing this post-Baptist, post-Charismatic phase of my existence as “Zen Mootist”), somehow a few years ago I stumbled across and got hooked on the “A Darker Shade of Pagan” music podcast. It’s good headphone material at work, sort of a blend of old-country folk and modern goth.
A couple of weeks ago, the podcast included a selection from The Decemberists‘ new album, The Hazards of Love, which though not pagan per se, creates a patchwork story based on old folk tales. Pretty much all the shapes of love are covered: There’s a pair of young lovers, one of them spending his days in the form of a faun due to an enchantment by his adoptive mother—a forest goddess; there’s a rake who has killed his own young children and who abducts the other young lover. Parsing out the full tale takes some close listening, but it’s a pleasurable effort, given how powerful the music itself is.
The album ranges from soft ballads to funky instrumentals to rock anthems in a very satisfying way. I’m reminded of some great old concept albums by the Moody Blues, Deep Purple, and Rick Wakeman. More than one song brings me to the verge of tears. What’s more, I haven’t been able to get the thing out of my head for over two weeks now. In my opinion, this is clearly The Decemberists’ best album—and that’s saying something.
Do yourself a favor: Pick up a copy, put on some headphones or slide it into your car stereo, and let the music pour over you. Expose yourself to The Hazards of Love, and you’ll agree that “The Wanting Comes In Waves.”