🎵 Listened to The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists.

I “picked this up,” to the extent that one can digitally do such a thing via a streaming service, because it is the source of the game Illimat. Illimat was conceived as a device for a photoshoot related to the album, and the Luminary cards - colorful, narrative-ish Tarot-sized cards - in the game are drawn from the story of the album. I read the summary on Wikipedia before listening, and flipped back and forth between tabs with my work in them and the lyrics at Genius to make sure I was following everything.

After reading the summary, I was like, yeah, this is my kind of narrative. Fairy story elements, creepy goth kinda stuff (The Rake is hella goth, y’all), sad love and such. As I was listening, the first thing that occurred to me was that this reminded me of Whisper House, the first thing Duncan Sheik released in the wake of Spring Awakening. It, too, is a creepy and old-fashioned feeling concept album that was eventually staged as a musical. It was released in January 2009, a couple of months before The Hazards of Love. And it has ghosts in it.

It’s weird listening to these things 11 years after their release, especially because I first listened to Whisper House as soon as it was released. I’m sure as I ruminate on them more, I’ll come up with some thoughts about the timing of their release and how it relates to my own life experience in early 2009, when I was about to leave teaching behind to go to library school, just after the inspiring inauguration day for President Obama, which happened on the day after we had a snowstorm here and the world felt quiet and peaceful and full of promise.

And here were these two albums, like a warning, almost.

the prettiest whistles won’t wrestle the thistles undone

from The Hazards of Love and

When everything is done
and everything is said
Life is naught but pain

from Whisper House.

Now that I’ve depressed you thoroughly, back to my thoughts about The Hazards of Love, which actually isn’t similar to Whisper House at all, I just have only very limited experience with concept albums and thus they all remind me of each other. (But I’m about to go listen to a bunch more because they really are very the kind of thing I like.)

Anyway. In summary, I liked it, but it’s not a thing I’m going to listen to over and over again (which I did, in 2009, with Whisper House). I don’t know from music if it’s not showtunes, so I can’t tell you about the sound, you know, or how it affected me. And I don’t care about the depth of the story, I care about the flavor, which is very much my speed.

So here’s what I can tell you, then:

  1. I loved Shara Nova as the Forest Queen, and will be checking out My Brightest Diamond.
  2. The fact that I’m a parent has changed my relationship somewhat from my previous loving creepy ghost children. Now I love creepy ghost children but they also make me deeply sad.
  3. And, following on that, I want every story of a pregnant person and their lover to end happily, with them all living in a beautiful home surrounded by family that loves and cherishes them, going on picnics and having family adventures and… I guess what we can all take away from this is…

Parenthood has ruined me for culture.

Happens to most parents, I think.

Anyway, I like The Hazards of Love, and I love Illimat.

Kimberly Hirsh @kimberlyhirsh