When Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy spoke to Westword in 2004, he made it clear that mass popularity wasn't his raison d'être. "I'd rather see a smaller audience, but an audience that is more attuned to the music, than a huge audience made up of moderately interested people," he said. Such talk won't enthrall Capitol Records execs, who are heavily hyping the group's new album, The Crane Wife. However, Meloy doesn't seem interested in compromising to make cash registers sing. If Crane sports pricier production than previous Decemberists platters, its intricate arrangements and literary narratives are as eccentric as ever. Moreover, the group's current tour partner, Alasdair Roberts, was clearly chosen for artistic reasons, not commercial ones. (The Amber Gatherers, Roberts's forthcoming CD, isn't as epically dour as 2005's No Earthly Man, but its fascinating spin on British folk remains an acquired taste.) Putting such a premium on credibility likely means that Meloy won't be burdened by a huge audience. Yet those who check out his work will be very glad they did.