I’m aware I haven’t recommended too many 2009 long players but am happy to salute The Decemberists’ The Hazards of Love, a sublime and really rather clever recording that I’ve been spinning relentlessly in recent days. I note that the current Word Magazine is offering this opus as an incentive to sign up for a subscription, accompanied by an unexpected suggestion from editor Mark Ellen that this might be the greatest album of all time. I can see the fellow’s point. It’s an ambitious beggar with seventeen tracks segueing into each other, producing a stunning suite of songs linked thematically. A wiser man than me might dub this a ‘concept album’ and, indeed, a tale is told throughout of two lovers with nods to death, brutality, enchantment and villainy tossed in for good measure. I hadn’t heard much of this band’s work before but I must investigate the back catalogue. Lead vocalist and musical mastermind Colin Meloy possesses a haunting voice which complements the effective folk-rock instrumental ambience splendidly. There are merry riffs and tantalising solos for those who like that kind of thing while the exquisitely chosen female singers add a great deal of delicacy and lushness to proceedings. The Hazards of Love proved a challenging listen to start with but after numerous plays it has become an old friend. This is a rewarding listen, a multi-layered delight brimming with beautiful tunes and ear-catching interludes. I advise all lovers of soaring sounds to contemplate seeking out this recording and spinning it on their radiograms and hi-fis forthwith.