The Dear Hunter – Migrant
Record Label: Equal Vision Records / Cave and Canary Records
Release Date: April 2nd 2013
A few years ago, I was really into bands like Circa Survive, Eisley, Of Machines, and a few others. Basically, I was into experimental and progressive rock and post-hardcore. Well, MA outfit The Receiving End of Sirens was one of them, and I was heavily into them for a couple years. I haven’t listened to them in a long time, but I found out in 2011 that one of the lead vocalists Casey Crescenzo started a project of his own, which is The Dear Hunter. After releasing a few concept records, he released The Color Spectrum in 2011, which was the first record I heard by The Dear Hunter. I listened to this record a few times, and I really enjoyed it. It was a very eclectic mix of indie, folk, alternative rock, experimental, etc, etc. It was a very interesting album, but still had a concept behind it, which was a record that coincided with every color of the rainbow. In fact, aside from releasing a “standard” version of the record, he released a version with 32 songs, which had a few songs represent every color. It was a cool idea, but it still kind of fell to the wayside for me. Maybe it was just too ambitious for me to truly “get it,” so I kind of just shelved it. Well, a couple years have passed, and now The Dear Hunter is back with Equal Vision debut Migrant. This is an interesting album, just because it’s not a concept record, really. It’s still very ambitious, but it doesn’t seem to have an over arching theme to it, like the last four records or so. I don’t want to say that this is a record with a random mix of songs, either. The songs flow together nicely, but at the same time, there’s still not central theme at hand. It’s a nice balance, and this record achieves that nicely. The only downside to this record is that it does get rather dull after awhile, because it’s quite lengthy. It’s about 50 minutes, which is a not bad length if the songs are very entertaining, engaging, interesting, and just don’t sound monotonous and/or derivative. Well, sadly, the record falls into that category for the last few songs or so, and while the songs are not bad, they just tend to run together. However, there are a lot of highlights on this record, and since it is 50 minutes, there’s definitely a lot to take from it. So, with that being said, let’s stop being a migrant, and sit down to listen to this record, shall we?
It begins with “Bring It Down,” which starts off with a 45-second piano intro before Casey Crescenzo’s wonderful voice comes into play. His voice is easily the best part of this record, and I don’t mean to say everything else is bad, but his voice is what drives this record forward. Finally, at about 2 minutes, the instrumentation picks up a bit with a nice drumbeat accompanying the piano riff in the beginning of the song. The chorus of this song features horns as well as the piano and it sounds really cool. There’s certainly a lot going on, and it’s only the first song, so while it does get dull after awhile, there are songs like this that absolutely blow my mind to some degree. Second track “Whisper” continues this trend of really strong songs, and it bothers me, because the beginning of the record is very misleading, because it’s so great. I love the first half of this record, but by the seventh or eighth track, things do get rather stale, and it’s quite a shame. The first few songs on this record are great. Instead of doing a one-two punch, The Dear Hunter kind of gives us a one-four punch. Third track “Shame” is definitely a really awesome track; this song gives me a bluesy kind of vibe from it, and I love that. It’s a rather slow and soft track, but it does its job. Following that, fourth track “An Escape” is the first song I heard from the record, and I actually bought the single on iTunes a couple weeks after it was released, and I really enjoyed it. Surprisingly, though, I might have to say this is the weakest song on the record, or at least one of them. The main problem I had with this track is that it didn’t really go anywhere, and it makes sense, considering it’s the second shortest song on the record. I was worried that the whole record would sound like this, but I was surprised, because it doesn’t. That’s a great surprise, nonetheless.
What’s even more surprising is that the middle of the record doesn’t really slow down, either; most of the time, with a record like this, the middle of the record is the part that becomes boring or stale. It’s not, and in fact, some of the best songs are here, such as fifth and sixth tracks “Shouting at the Rain,” and “The Kiss of Life.” The former is another acoustic ballad (which is what this record is mainly full of), but it’s got a killer chorus. It also kind of has an alt-country vibe, too, which is really cool as well. The latter is a very catchy and breezy indie-rock track. It doesn’t do too much out of the ordinary, but it’s one of the most upbeat songs, lyrically as well. Seventh track “Girl” is kind of interesting, and not only because it’s the shortest song on the record. It’s the most “rock” sounding song on the record. A very strong guitar riff strums through the song, and it has a really chorus, too; a female choir sings during the chorus, and it’s a bit different, which I like a lot. This song does keep things fresh, but it’s after this is where the album starts to drag on a bit. Every song at this point follows a similar formula. Not completely, but every song is a rather slow acoustic/electric ballad, so to speak. This is where the record just kind of drones together, and it’s a bit annoying, honestly. It’s not that these are bad songs, but they really just combine to form one long 20-minute song, because they sound so similar. There is a cool little guitar solo at the end of the track “This Vicious Place,” which is the track that comes before closing track “Don’t Look Back.” It’s another piano ballad that’s really smooth sounding, but it doesn’t really do much for me, because there are way too many of these on the record. It closes it out nicely, but overall, the record is a bit lengthy. My biggest complaint is just that they should’ve ordered the tracklisting differently. If they put the acoustic ballads throughout the record, instead of all at the last half, I’d be much content with the record, because the sound would be quite varied, all the while not turning into anything inconsistent. Because the ballads are all at the end of the record, it slows the record down, but not in the way that I usually like, in the sense that there’s only one or two. There’s a lot, and while that’s not a horrible thing, it’s just they’re one after another. Regardless, this is the first record with The Dear Hunter not making a clear-cut concept record, so does it work? Yes, it does. It works very well, because if they reordered the tracklisting a bit, I’d enjoy this record a lot more, but that’s okay. For what it is, it’s great, and definitely worth repeated listens.