The Crane Wife
The fourth album from the Portland, Oregon, band is not only their finest so far, but it will likely serve as their breakthrough into the mainstream.
Reaching creatively for something different, the band attempts to merge their indie folk rock sound with elements from the pastoral wing of '70s prog rock, even surprisingly sounding like Emerson, Lake & Palmer on one track. The band comes close to crafting several mini rock operas, with two suite-style tracks clocking in at over eleven minutes long.
Lyrically, the band displays an undergraduate's delight in heady allusions in their material. The non-contiguous 3-part title suite is based on a Chinese folk tale, and elsewhere the group makes reference to Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov and Shakespeare's "The Tempest."
One of the most striking tracks on The Crane Wife is the 12-minute suite called "The Island," three interrelated pieces which reaches its climax as an ELP-style jam complete with soaring moog soloing.
But don't let my description of the album make you think that this album is ponderous or lacking in musical fun. "The Perfect Crime #2" is a funky upbeat melody with a terrific groove. And "When the War Came" is a harder-edged, thumping guitar-driven track.
There's a little bit of everything thrown into The Crane Wife. That, plus its consistent quality and giddy inventiveness are reasons why the band is poised to gain new legions of fans.