Circa Survive – On Letting Go
May 29, 2007
Equal Vision Records
“It starts out like a season in reverse...” croons Anthony Green, in the first line of Circa Survive’s sophomore attempt. The band is (in)famous for its 2005 debut, Juturna, which melded Anthony’s beautiful voice against spacey guitar lines and a rolling bass. So how does this album compare against many 2005 AOTY’s? Well, to put it simply, brilliantly.
First, let’s talk about progression, the ultimate double-edged sword. When a band does, in fact progress, old fans of the band are often put off by the new sound, but the new sound often attracts new fans, keeping its fan base in a state of dynamic equilibrium. And as an early fan, I feared that the former would hold true for me. However, this album has reaffirmed my faith in progression, showing me once and for all that it is possible for a band to not only progress, but to retain the sound that initially attracted fans. But, specifically, how did Circa progress? The first thing I recognized on the new album is Anthony’s vocal improvement. It’s hard to deny that Green is one of the most polarizing frontmen in today’s musical scene, with a “love it or hate it voice,” unique stage presence (to say the least,) and his interesting personality. I, myself, believe his voice is a thing of envy. It’s not perfect; some of the high-note hesitation is still there, but his melodies are more coherent and more patterned than previously. The other band members have also stepped up to the plate, and have proven that they’re not just playing backgrounds for Ant to sing to.
Let’s start from the beginning, of course, with “Living Together,” featuring a moody guitar line, and finishing off with the haunting question – “would you trade your soul for gold?” The next song, “In The Morning And Amazing...” was the first song to be released off the new record, whetting many appetites (including mine.) This is also probably the first song that Circa has ever written, where I actually feel that instrumentation plays a bigger part than Anthony’s vocals. And I have to say, I like it. It’s a refreshing change. The next two songs, “The Greatest Lie” and first single “The Only Difference...” are two personal favorites of mine, which is shocking, seeing as how they’re the most down to earth and conventional songs on the record. The former owes its quality to Anthony’s pained, emotional vocals, and some great lyrics. The latter sports the catchiest drumline you’ll hear all year, soaring vocals, and layered guitars.
Fifth tracks have been a bitch this year. The Academy Is... placed their Weezer ripoff, “Everything We Had” at that slot, which brought the album down a good deal. “Make A Plan To Love Me” was the weakest track off Cassadaga. Anberlin’s “There Is No Mathematics To Love And Loss” was largely unimpressive compared to most other material on the disc. Self Against City’s “Disappearing Act” was a test in patience, to say the least. Permanent Me proved that they can’t scream to save their life with “Christine.” And I could go on and on, but the fact is, that they’ve had it rough lately. Unfortunately, “Mandala” continues the trend. While it’s by no means a bad track, it’s easily the weakest on the album. From a musical standpoint, the time signature and thick layers make it interesting, but vocally and lyrically does not showcase this band at its best (at all.) “Semi-Constructive Criticism” sends visions of Saosin dancing in my head, with its aggressive drums and stop-start guitar, reminding me a bit of (a much less angry) “Seven Years.” “Kicking Your Crosses Down,” unsurprisingly, is a track about religion, sporting lyrics such as “But we wont be saved / We’ll live as slaves to love / What God takes away / Let’s refill with mud.” The title track that follows sports my favorite lyric: “If blood is thicker than water / Then you’ll drown quicker than we intended.” Anthony’s wit never ceases to amaze me. “Carry Us Away” contains the most “out there” lyrics on the album. “Close Your Eyes To See” is largely carried by spectacular bass work. The album closer, “Your Friends Are Gone,” is the longest and most depressing track on the album, fading out with a bitter chant.
Now that the track-by-track is finished, I felt that I should touch on Circa’s lyrics. In my opinion, they’re a work of art. Specifically, a work of abstract art. At first glance, they’re strange and nonsensical. However, when you dig deeper, they become more coherent and recognized. And just like an abstract painting, they are fully open to interpretation.
The high score on this review might put some people off at first, and that’s okay. I fully admit and embrace my bias when it comes to this band, and can’t say that this review is completely from an objective standpoint. I only ask two things of you. One, is that you judge this record for yourself, and two, that you don’t judge it on the first listen. Like Juturna, this is a “grower” as opposed to a “shower,” and if you don’t let it grow, then you are missing out on a captivating album.
i was not a fan whatsoever of Juturna. yet i am absolutely loving this release.
not a bad review, just seems like the flow falters a bit.
and while i think the 5th track thing was unique, i think it takes away from the piece because it doesn't really matter what other tracks from other cd's are like. you're reviewing this cd, not those.
just some constructive criticism. nice job.
amazing album as for me, i already listened to it like 20times from a to z and it still gives me chills, really good.. and mandala is an awesome track too, i'd say there's no bad song on this album, hmm, i'd even say there's no bad song by circa ever