Suggested Listening Method: Decent to great headphones.
Suggested Beverage Accompaniment: Red wine or dark liquor.
It is here, in the very beginning that our method of listening is tested. This opening track is a full spectrum aural treat. With the wrong speakers it can sound weak, especially if you are missing solid bass response. Hence, decent to great headphones, the over-the-ear kind not earbuds.
2. The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone.)
The story begins with a narrator (whom we will meet later) voiced by Colin Meloy. He tells us of his true love, Margaret as she rides past the confines of the king’s walls whereby she comes upon a wounded white fawn. Our narrator then goes on to suggest that Margaret’s “charity” in her inclination to help the poor creature is “a credit to her sex,” shining some light on his general view of women. Again, this will be developed later.
One word of note that will come up again is “taiga.” Taiga, sung almost like “tiger” is the boreal forest of the north just below the tundra. Aside from the oceans it is the largest biome on the planet. It is in this very spirit of a vast interconnected organism that “the taiga shift[s] strange” as the fawn morphs into a young man and sings prophetically of the hazards of love.
Later Margaret back in the bower with the other maidens cannot work but can only reminisce on the encounter with the shapeshifter.
3. A Bower Scene
Now our narrator describes the concerns of Margaret’s sister who has taken notice that the young Margaret having been unconsolable has also missed her menstrual cycle. In time as the physical effects of her pregnancy begin to show, Margaret returns to the forest to find her lover.
4. Won’t Want For Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
And now Margaret, sung by Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond, enters the forest imploring it to alert her love of her pregnant arrival. Hereby sounds William, the young fawn-turned-man voiced also by Colin Meloy. He declares Margaret his “one true love.”
5. The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)
William delivers a declaration of the tenderest love. The lovers lie naked upon the soft forest floor hand in hand, the stars a roof above their head. He proclaims that for her love he would wager all. Again, we are reminded of a reckoning to come: the hazards of love.
6. The Queen’s Approach
Cello, viola, violins and banjo. The mother of the forest has awoken and draws near.
7. Isn’t It a Lovely Night?
Margaret and William describe the scene in their lover’s glade and rejoice in Margaret’s pregnancy.
8. The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid
Now comes the arrival of William’s mother, the Forest Queen, sung by Shara Worden (Shara Nova) of My Brightest Diamond, whose presence precedes her like a black smoke. We learn of how the Queen saved the life of the doomed baby William. And now she views his love with Margaret as a betrayal to her own selfless sacrifice. William, whom is naively transparent of his wanting for Margaret makes a proposition to the Queen: He will have this one night with Margaret and in return he will give the rest of his life to the Queen. Satisfied, she agrees.
9. An Interlude
10. The Rake
Our narrator’s true identity is revealed. He recounts the tale of his marriage to a woman whose “womb started spilling out babies” where upon he realized his curse. He bitterly ticks through his four children and reveals that their mother died during the birth of her last. He then goes on to gleefully detail how he murdered every last one of them so that he could live “easy and free.” The last line emphasizes the abandon with which he regards these brutal killings, “Expect that you think that I should be haunted, but it never really bothers me.” All right. We’ll see how that works out.
11. The Abduction of Margaret
The rake abducts our heroine with the complicity of the spirit of the forest. He gallops his bound captive to the edge of the great wild river.
12. The Queen’s Rebuke / The Crossing
The Queen emerges having witnessed the abduction. She realizes her opportunity to be rid of the object of her son’s desire and agrees to fly the Rake and Margaret to the far side of the raging waters where William will not be able to reclaim her.
13. Annan Water
And here the desperation of the hazards of love come crystalizing into focus. William knows that he cannot survive the crossing of the river, yet even over the crashing waves he can hear the cries of the violated Margaret. The scene is dire and painted with poignant detail: “The horses shiver and bite against the bridle.” His mother cries that if he attempts to cross he will surely drown. He makes a final and genius decision that will simultaneously allow him to reconnect with Margaret and deny the Queen the pleasure of regaining his capture. He promises the river that if it let’s him pass, it may consume him upon his return.
14. Margaret in Captivity
The wicked Rake brags of how he has ravaged Margaret. He relishes in her helpless defiled vulnerability and yet she still calls out to her lover William, holding on to hope of rescue.
15. The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)
The Rake meets the sweetest revenge imaginable. Oh the hazards of love.
16. The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprised)
Now with the Rake eliminated, William is allowed to rescue his pregnant lover. The wanting indeed comes in waves, but so too does the Annan Water.
17. The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)
Resigned to their fate, William tenderly prepares a marriage ceremony for Margaret and himself before they are engulfed by the icy water. Using their last breaths to say their vows, they embrace each other knowing that in death they will finally be free of these hazards of love.