The Crane Wife - The Decemberists

Universal acclaim - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. The band's most ambitious, mind-blowing, and best record yet.
  2. The Decemberists have always had a flair for the dramatic, but it's refined and realized more than ever on their amazing new album The Crane Wife.
  3. The songs brim with melodic ideas, but the album never overwhelms, because Meloy doesn't try to pack every minute with words and hooks.
  4. The Crane Wife is an album that nicely fits into the Decemberists' universe and has roots in earlier works, but sounds -- and hangs together -- better than any of them.
  5. 90
    This is an amazing, innovative, storytelling record that takes you on [a] fantastic, fun trip. [Oct 2006, p.118]
  6. The Crane Wife is an impressively realized song cycle.
  7. Another extraordinary Decemberists album.
  8. As a sustained effort, it represents the band’s sharpest and most satisfying work, and one of the most accomplished albums of its kind this year.
  9. The Crane Wife could be the best Robyn Hitchcock album made in several years; the lyrical marriage of whimsy and death bear the fruits of a master class led by the former Soft Boy.
  10. Winsomely balancing frivolity and gravity, the Decemberists assemble an oddball menagerie of the usual rogues and rascals, soldiers and criminals, lovers and baby butchers-- but they've got a lot more tricks up their sleeves than previous albums had hinted.
  11. The jarring faux-metal riffage of "When the War Came" exposes Meloy's limits, but several of these studies in heartbreak and homicide rank among his most moving. [6 Oct 2006, p.68]
  12. [The Crane Wife] not only matches past pop glories, in most cases, it tops them.
  13. The Crane Wife is no sell-out, retaining and even expanding their eccentricities, spinning more of Meloy’s beguiling characters and engrossing stories into their fourth straight, stellar full-length. [#15]
  14. There are enough pinnacles of musical achievement married with subtle storytelling to justify the scale of this album.
  15. 80
    A real grower. [Feb 2007, p.73]
  16. 80
    The most tightly hook-larded, colorfully produced, listenable Decemberists record to date. [Nov 2006, p.138]
  17. 80
    The best-sounding Decemberists record to date. [Nov 2006, p.103]
  18. The Crane Wife isn't automatic for the people yet, but it's far from green. [Nov 2006, p.188]
  19. It is all as self-consciously stagey as a Wes Anderson movie - too arch and florid to really engage the heart, but bold and wondrous entertainment none the less.
  20. Oddly, the unconventional sequencing and measured pace of the album make the fragmented mess hold together quite well.
  21. While the sound of this record is different from previous releases, it is only ever-so-subtly-so—and it just might be better.
  22. Meloy’s ever-multiplying prog-rock ambitions are well on their way to swallowing him whole, but for now he seems to be comfortable enough as a guy writing sweet folk pop songs alongside ever-shifting song suites and polite hard rock.
  23. In their music... the Decemberists are more confident and willing to stretch out than ever before.
  24. Some cuts, like the English murder ballad "Shankill Butchers" and "Summersong"... sound like outtakes from previous records, but by the time the listener arrives at the Donovan-esque (in a good way) closer, "Sons & Daughters," the less tasty bits of The Crane Wife seem a wee bit sweeter.
  25. [It] could easily have been a staggeringly pompous exercise; instead, it's rendered intriguing by a liberated approach. [Feb 2007, p.99]
  26. There's a kick in the way song after song masks his darkish vision in elegantly hooky arrangements whose sonic signature owes more to folk rock than to prog or musical theater. [5 Oct 2006, p.68]
  27. Certain listeners will declare The Crane Wife the best record yet from the Decemberists, but it’s still too inconsistent to be declared the masterpiece of which Meloy and company are capable.
  28. 70
    Ambitious, risky and occasionally rambling, this is a song cycle best absorbed in a start-to-finish listen. [#73, p.93]
  29. It makes for compelling listening, even if you're not always sure what, exactly, is going on.
  30. Tempting as it may be to assume that beefing up their sound would have automatically made the Decemberists markedly better, the truth is that these strides may have at least partially come at the expense of the things that always made the band so singularly compelling.
  31. Sometimes you wish Meloy would just put away his studied thesp-schlock and say, "Man, I'm sick of singing about Victorian peasants. I got dumped once. I want to write about that..." [27 Jan 2007, p.31]
  32. Most of The Crane Wife consists of rehashes of Decemberists staples and by-the-books, cookie-cutter indie pop that runs the gamut between pleasant enough ("O, Valencia!") and barely tolerable ("Summersong").
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 147 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 84 out of 91
  2. Negative: 3 out of 91
  1. Mar 28, 2012
    If your not familiar with this band they're well worth getting into. This has some folk and a bit of Indie pop but the Decemberists do have their own style. There is a little bit of REM in here and if you liked Neutral Milk Hotels "In the aeroplane over the sea", at times this record has a similar feel to that (although not quite as good). There is a lot of quality on this so it's hard to pick out stand out moments. Track 2 which has several songs in one and The Perfect Crime #2 are my favourites. Full Review »
  2. Dec 15, 2012
    Simply an amazing album. Pretty much every song is great. I remember first seeing the list of songs and seeing that there were two songs that were both over ten minutes long and was skeptical as to how any song could be that long without boring the listener. However, I was pleasantly surprised by their quality. This album is just amazing. Worth the money for sure! Full Review »
  3. Oct 30, 2011
    One of the Decemberists' best efforts, if not their best album so far; The Crane WIfe has a more refined sound compared to their previous works. While Picaresque may have more defined tracks that allow them to stand alone very well, The Crane Wife is smoother and more cohesive, and does so without sacrificing the Decemberists' style. Full Review »