"The Crane Wife" is a Japanese folk tale about a poor sailmaker who rescues and cares for a wounded crane and subsequently finds his life enriched. The Decemberists' third album only dedicates two numbers to that story while the other tracks explore the band's usual delectation for soldiers, thieves and lovers. It helps to know the background behind each of vocalist Colin Meloy's story-songs, but each song can be listened to as a piece unto its own. From a production standpoint, The Crane Wife is more polished and less ragged than the Decemberists' previous recordings and veers toward pleasurable and easygoing folk-rock. But, unlike recent indie-to-major graduates Death Cab for Cutie, its music doesn't suffer as a result. The lack of dynamism within the band's sound allows Meloy's detailed lyrics to rise to the surface. ****
The Decemberists play the Tabernacle Fri., Oct., 27.