The Decemberists offer rock opera

The Decemberists
“The Hazards of Love”
2.5 out 5 stars

The new Decemberists record is a self-described rock opera. For all intents and purposes, their last record, “The Crane Wife,” was also a rock opera, though they didn’t see the need to call it one. Unsurprisingly, they really mean business this time around.

We’ve known for years that head minstrel Colin Meloy has a way with words, though he’s never gone this overboard before. “The Hazards of Love” is the story of a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting lover as she journeys through the woods.

No, you could never decipher that from the songs alone. This is why the record crosses the line between visionary and overindulgent.

“Hazards” is indeed an impressive record, though its intellectual opulence suffocates the band’s usual charm. Guest spots abound. Songs vary in length from 29 seconds, to 6 minutes and 57 seconds. A bounty of characters are introduced. But it seems Meloy has taken his creative writing a little too far.

Key Tracks: “Won’t Want For Love (Margaret in the Taiga)”

Coconut Records
2.5 out of 5 stars

The fun part about Coconut Records and Jason Schwartzman is that, even though you may not recognize his name or his solo project, you have heard him before.

Because, let’s face it, whether you like “The O.C.” or not, you’ve heard its iconic and distinct “California” theme. Up until 2006, Schwartzman played drums in Phantom Planet, the band credited to that lovable and catchy tune.

Schwartzman decided to focus more on his acting career (“The Darjeeling Limited,” “I Heart Huckabees”), but instead of dropping music altogether, he started up his own record label and put out his well received debut “Nighttiming” in 2007. Enough credentials. At this point, it’s obvious that Schwartzman pretty much knows what he’s doing.

“Davy” definitely shows that Schwartzman’s got the singer-songwriter thing down, but the one con is that the songs all start to sound the same after the first half the album.

The first few tracks are the real gems on here though, with “Drummer” being the only autobiography in song form I’ve ever heard. While Coconut Records is definitely still solid, “Davy” is a little bit of a letdown after Nighttiming.

Key tracks: “Microphone,” “Drummer”