The Porcelain Throne: The Dear Hunter
Alright guys, I am almost completely out of bands that I have extensive knowledge about, so I really need your help to keep the Porcelain Throne occupied. Click here to download The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines, and send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This edition, Stockhausen and I teamed up to write about one of our favorite non-metal bands, The Dear Hunter, not to be mixed up with The Deer Hunter (the movie) or the other indie rock band, Deerhunter. The Dear Hunter is the superior of the three. Stockhousen is in blue and I am in black.
I should start by saying that I tend to not like indie rock. At one point, the term probably applied to bands and artists with a sound that didn’t fit the big-ticket rock sound, and was presumably a broad umbrella that encompassed a lot of genuinely creative and new paths. However, since 2005 or so, indie music has been synonymous with self-indulgent whiny crap. Thankfully, The Dear Hunter has provided us with a wealth of honest, creative music in the “indie” realm that doesn’t slop easily into a broad, boring category.
The Dear Hunter started as a solo project by Casey Crescenzo, who was previously with the band The Receiving End of Sirens. By no means were they a bad band, but they are not something I regularly enjoy. They would be the best band at like a Warped Tour or something, but luckily Casey was asked to leave TREOS, and took his creative potential and formed what would become one of my favorite bands of all time.
Act I: The Lake South, The River North (2006)
The original idea for this project was to create a collection of six acts, detailing the birth, life, and death of a man, known as the Dear Hunter. Crescenzo wrote Act I and recorded it with the help of his brother on drums and his mother on additional vocals. Featuring diverse instrumentation and varied structures, the broad-scope nature of the songs showed his talent in bringing musical weight and nuance to the subject matter. My favorite track, City Escape is a driving, multi-faceted look at the main character’s mother and her complicated life as a prostitute. From the beginning of this project, Casey does an unbelievable job creating this surreal early 20th century vibe, and a theatrical musical theme that spans all three acts so far.
Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading (2007)
Only a year later, Casey was able to conjure up a full band to record the second act. Musically, the stage was set for a risk-taking, always-changing approach to this dramatic setting and Act II and developed on the diverse approach set by the debut. This album focuses on the Dear Hunter’s adventure to a brothel, in hopes of learning more about his mother who recently passed away. As you can imagine, this leads to Casey crafting a sprawling cinematic landscape around the adolescence of the main character as he falls for a prostitute. Musically, this album culminates their ability to put layers upon layers of rhythms, creating one unified sound that requires a few listens to pick apart. As many sounds and instruments as he used in Act I, he managed to up the ante in Act II. Act II contains a plethora of absolute gems (which combined Stockhousen and I named entirely too many, so I decided to list none, and suggest the whole album instead). The album is bound to lose some listeners in the winding, 77 minute run time, but don’t be afraid to dive in an find out for yourself on this truly otherwise solid release.
Act III: Life and Death (2009)
Our story continues with Act III, the pinnacle thus far in the storyline. This album takes all the eccentric, multi-faceted brainstorming of the first two albums and nails it home with a beefy 58 minute span that never feels worn out. After almost an entire lineup change between albums, Casey continues telling the story of the Dear Hunter, leaving his “relationship” with the prostitute, Ms. Leading, and going to war, where he meets his half brother, who dies just after linking him to his father, who the Dear Hunter kills in order to take his half brother’s place back home after the war. Again, the band continues to refine and perfect the theatrical core of the concept. My favorite track on this album will always be The Tank, a hulking, trudging, aptly-named tune that happens to be the first The Dear Hunter song I ever heard. This album displays Crescenzo’s flair for nuanced, drama-infused music like nothing before.
The Color Spectrum (2011)
Taking a break from the Acts, Casey decided to start another massive project, but released this one all at once. “Fair enough,” all us fans said. “We’ll give this a shot. But it better be…(thousands of collective jaws hit the floor). The Color Spectrum is a collection of 9 four-song EPs, each titled a color from the color spectrum (including black and white). If you did the math, yes, that is 36 songs total released all at one time. Crescenzo took his knack for dialing in a certain feeling and turned it up to eleven. No storyline, no assumptions, we just get the color for each EP and get to soak in his interpretation. It’s difficult to choose, but I would say my favorites color are Orange, an up tempo, smooth yet crunchy tone, that is unlike anything I have heard before, yet so familiar. I also enjoy Violet, which is sort of a return to their dramatic tones from the Acts. My personal favorites are Red, Yellow, Violet, and White, but I love each one and will forever tell of its greatness. I can’t possibly pick a favorite here. Buy a physical copy, a CD player, a generator, a lifetime supply of gas, a ticket across the Pacific on a boat, a saboteur to blow up the boat and strand you on a desert island, then plug the CD player into the generator, put that lifetime supply of gas to use, and listen to the crap out of this collection. You have no other choice.
(I really don’t want to pick just one song, so basically at random, here is a song from Orange)
At this point, I must bow out. My mother always taught me that I should watch Bambi, and in Bambi, Thumper said something about being nice and not saying anything about how the most recent album from a band was a total letdown. Still not in the mood to get back to the Acts, to many fan’s dismay, The Dear Hunter put out their most radio-friendly album to date. For me, about half of the songs are perfect, but there are a few duds as well (and by that I mean a little too simple, when the band excels at layering and complexity). It is very obvious that Casey wanted another non-conceptual album to express himself, and he preferred a stripped down tone to fit that theme. Overall, I am not disappointed that they made the album instead of Act IV, but it has me itching to hear what Casey has up his sleeve for the Dear Hunter
I have seen this band an obsessive amount of times, and I highly recommend it next time they go on tour. They play a great show every time, not to mention Casey’s (and the rest of the band’s) on-stage banter is worth the ticket price alone.
Additionally, if you are a classical music fan, Casey composed a four-movement piece called Amour & Attrition (2014) that you might enjoy.
Again I would like to thank Stockhousen for his contributions, and PLEASE WRITE FOR THE THRONE!
(Image Via Me)