Sunday, February 9, 2014

Significant Albums: The Dear Hunter - Act II: The Meaning of and All Things Regarding Ms.Leading


This has been my favorite record of The Dear Hunter's, more or less since it was released. Sure, I love Act I nearly as much, and adore nearly all of Act III as well, but this album is just without flaw. And people say it's too long? I feel it's more or less the proper length. Or rather, I enjoy it most all at once, and don't find myself wanting it to end, even at the end of "Vital Vessels Vindicates."

Lord, I don't know how extensive the details will be included here initially about it, but I will include at least some of them for now.

I love the layering, the styles incorporated being ragtime, progressive rock, Beatles and Beach Boys like harmonies and instrumentation.  Some of those melodies I will never forget. When I listen to it now, I do get a ton of nostalgia to the Summer and Fall of 2007. "Red Hands," I'll admit, I still adore and think it's the most accessible track the band has ever made (as much as Casey may not agree, and at least doesn't quite love it, for that or just for what it is).

The chorus is just so addictive to sing along to. And the way he brought it in with the strings towards the end, I often get tears just thinking about the passion or emotion put in to it. "Oh My God What Have I Done? Now My Darling Put Your Clothes Back On."

Shit, my train of thought is leaving me....

I mean just going down the track list, "The Procession," "The Lake and the River," "The Oracles and the Delphi Express," and "The Church and the Dime," just offer a great sense about how The Dear Hunter have so many influences. From the time changes, to the choruses and lyrics that return or get referenced. They are 4 songs, but almost seem like 6 or 8, with the transitions and change in style. Among them, I guess I think of the deep vocal section of "The Lake and the River" "Eat so much but I never get full" . For some reason, the track "Nauticus" from Pain of Salvation, I get reminded of in that section. Musically and lyrically, they aren't that similar, but the whole slow, rhythmic deep (baritone?) vocal use and what sounds almost gospel or preaching/prayer-like, and sort of in a random, out-of-the-blue way in style, those 2 songs/section I seem to think of.

"Smiling Swine" I guess I will always associate with The Beatles "A Day in the Life"..the whole rhythm and use of vocal dynamics. I thought I read or heard once of Casey's love for that Beatles song or at least that song being inspired by The Beatles. It might have been other Beatles like something off of Abbey Road or something. I also for some reason think of the story being at a Hotel or something, and The Who's "Bell Boy" ideal if not music specifically.

I guess that is one point where the story seems to be as big a deal as the music. But unlike many Rock Operas (not including Quadrophenia tho) and story/dialogue based albums/music, The Dear Hunter's storytelling and narrative totally works and avoids the issues with a lot of the cheesy melodramatic elements of those kinds of albums. The music still does come first and the vocals are not written for the story, but for the song still.

The story itself, while I honestly don't attach myself to, I find appealing enough to wonder about. It does pickup from where Act I left off about the young man Hunter's exploits and encounters, in this case, with a call-girl who he falls in love with, but then learns about what her intentions and identity are. Although I kind of see her as initially trying to deceive him, but ultimately wanting what's best for him.

I love the ending of this record to bits, as I stated earlier with this album not dragging or seeming too long. In fact the last 3 or 4 tracks in some ways are the most memorable. From "Red Hands" on, I seem to receive ear worms with nearly every track. "Dear Ms.Leading" is such a great rocking tune. The vocal harmonies and the way it builds. The organ texture works so well, almost in a Deep Purple-kind of way. And Casey's screaming totally fits.

"Where the Road Parts" and "Black Sandy Beaches" are dreamy and just impossible to leave my head. The line "You were the only one that didn't fold"....I keep hearing over and over. And actually recall loving the original demo which I think was just titled "You Were the Only One That Didn't Fold." It's just a tear-dropper, the way it builds and the dreamy floating synths with the vocal chants.

"The Bitter Suite" suite, and "Evicted" I would say the same about as well. Dreamy, mesmerizing, and another great example of The Dear Hunter's use of falsetto vocal harmonies, that I totally love. Whether that is partly due to Casey's love of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson or just his general interest in using them, especially at the time he wrote this, I dunno. Although I suppose the overt Beach Boys-like moments aren't as evident on this album as they are on a couple of tracks on both Act I and Act III, they still seem to be noticed enough.

Blech. I guess for now, I can just add or conclude, this is a special record that while it may not be exactly the kind of music The Dear Hunter are making now, and wasn't my introduction to the band initially. It totally cemented my love for them and Casey Crescenzo as a songwriter and musician. It's a record with a ton of ideas and a ton of moments to enjoy. And it's very progressive rock-like but in a modern way, screaming being one-of but not the only part of that. I hope for the day Casey makes something I enjoy even more than this, but if it never happens I can't say I will be disappointed.