Picks and Pans Review: The Decemberists

updated 04/13/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/13/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Hazards of Love |

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There's certainly no lack of ambition on the Decemberists' fifth full-lengther. It's a fairy-tale concept album, a prog-rock opera involving a woman who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal, her lover and a forest queen. The characters are voiced by lead singer Colin Meloy as well as guest vocalists Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). If this all sounds convoluted and just plain weird, well, it is. But this 17-track suite is hardly the total disaster it could have been, thanks to standout cuts like "The Rake's Song." Plus, you have to admire this quintet for pushing the limits of pop music, children's choir and all.

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