The Dear Hunter – Migrant

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To escape.. to escape

Brainchild of Casey Crescenzo, The Dear Hunter, has never been known as a musical project that creates the same thing twice. After three immensely well received Acts albums, and a gargantuan EP project released in 2011 entitled The Color Spectrum it seemed that there was nothing that Crescenzo and his musical brain couldn’t do. Less than two years after the release of the Spectrum, The Dear Hunter is back with a new album that is centered around its frontman’s personal life. 

This lush, yet dense offering opens with “Bring You Down” a track which flows outwards from a morphing string maelstrom and grabs the listener right from the beginning. The album’s lead single, “Whisper” immediately kicks in afterwards and by the time its chorus arrives it’s quite impossible to be anything but enamored by Crescenzo’s knack for churning out songs that are musically interesting, yet catchy beyond comprehension.

Two more songs that were debuted prior to the albums drop, “Shame” and “An Escape” continue to pelt the listener with bluesy and intense vibes that leave the audience begging for more. “Kiss of Life” becomes the album’s first ballad, which after about a minute of emotive crooning explodes into a warm, passionate chorus. As the song continues, it becomes more and more rhythmically complex, keeping the audience held up by the lapels.

One of the clear standout tracks on this record is certainly the moody, wonky “Girl”. Completely new territory for Crescenzo, it is clear that there will be no wavering as he continues on his seemingly unstoppable musical journey.The female vocals on this track (performed by none other than Casey’s sister Azia Crescenzo) give the song an interesting twist that hasn’t yet been heard on a Dear Hunter track. The back-and-forth between the siblings is one of the album’s shining moments, and the final minute of this track will leave virtually anyone listening besides themselves.

“Cycles” seems to be the next step in the musical progression that has been created with the Blue EP, as it is awash with reverb guitars, and features a musical finale that hearkens back to “What You Said”. The album continues into another ballad, “Sweet Naiveté”. This track is predominately a piano/string piece who’s vocals feel like a slow, gentle waltz, in a vein not all unlike some of the less angsty tunes off Act III.

The band finishes the album strong with a 1-2-3 punch that is started with what is bound to become a live staple, “Let Go”. Launching into one of the most singable choruses the band has, this track not only has some of Crescenzo’s most dazzling vocal performances, but has perhaps one of the most memorable melodies the band has ever crafted.

If anyone was upset or worried that not diving right back into the Acts after The Color Spectrum might be a bad idea, they need not worry. Casey Crescenzo has once again proven that he is capable of quickly turning out a handful of beautifully crafted pieces which will without a doubt stand alongside with the best of whatever 2013 has to offer.

Standout tracks: “Whisper”, “Shame”, “Girl”, “Let Go”

Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)

Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)

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I never really loved you, but I’ll miss you anyway

Having put out the highly praised double-album Grace For Drowning in 2011, Steven Wilson is back with follow-up The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories), his third solo album. Since Porcupine Tree went on a hiatus, Steven Wilson have been making music heavily influenced by 70’s Progressive Rock, and this time he takes his talented live band with him into the studio for the first time.

Over the years, Steven Wilson have become a bit of a legend within the Progressive Rock-scene, and he has gained many fans due to his craftsmanship and ability to always evolve. “The Raven That Refused to Sing” feels like a natural progression from the previous album, Grace For Drowning, and it continues down the path of 70’s Progressive Rock, heavily influenced by bands like King Crimson and Yes.

The album starts off on a familiar note. “Luminol” is a song that was played live on tour before the album came out, and it was also featured on the live DVD, Get All You Deserve which came out last year. It is a song with very little singing, and it is almost an instrumental song with the various instruments trading places with each other. While the song is not 100% representative of how the whole album sounds, it very much sets the tone, and displays the talented musicianship that shines through on the album.

Lyrically the album is about different ghost stories, some of them are pretty scary, and some of them are sad. The title-track in particular has a very sad story about loss and mortality. The title-track is up there with some of his best work, and it is a ballad in a similar style to “Deform to Form a Star”, from the previous album Grace For Drowning. Another standout song is “The Watchmaker”, which features a clever use of acoustic guitars, but also some harmony vocals that has become Steven Wilson’s trademark.

The album is very good. The biggest issue is that it does not feel very exciting. Steven Wilson has already made most of this before, and while you do not have to reinvent yourself on every album or change genres completely, it is nice with a new twist or a new aspect if you are doing something you have done before. Soundwise it is very similar to Grace For Drowning which in my opinion is a stronger and more interesting album. Still, the album is far from bad, and if you enjoyed the previous albums, or enjoy Progressive Rock in general, I suggest you check Raven out.

Standout tracks: The Raven That Refused to Sing, The Watchmaker, Luminol.

Amplifier – Echo Street

Amplifier – Echo Street


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”Its just a few miles to oblivion now, there was a bad connection from the start.”

It has been almost a decade since Amplifier released their self-titled debut album which successfully fused different musical elements, resulting in a very interesting sound combining the best of Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Alternative Rock and Space Rock with a heavier edge. Since 2004, the band has put out several EPs and two studio albums, the latest one being a big behemoth called “The Octopus”, a two-hour long double-album. The Octopus was an album with a very dark and heavy atmosphere. But that was two years ago, and the band is now back with a new album, the follow-up, Echo Street, which is almost the complete opposite of what The Octopus was.

Where the latter was a heavier album with a sometimes muddy sound and dark atmosphere, Echo Street is a light and bright album with a more clean production and more focused songwriting. In many ways, Echo Street is a very unique album in the Amplifier catalog. While I personally really liked The Octopus, it is very refreshing that Echo Street sounds completely different. It is noticeable right from the very beginning of the album, and the opening-song “Matmos” (and the whole album in general) will probably divide fans when it comes to opinions. It starts off quiet and really takes its time to build up, by some simple and effective chord strumming and singing. When the chorus finally kicks in after almost three and a half minutes, the song really lifts to higher levels. The song sets the tone for the album and what will come.

Musically I would say Echo Street is the least heavy album the band has put out, and the focus has shifted more towards creating epic soundscapes and crafting melodies. The Pink Floyd-influence shines through on a few of the longer songs, in a positive way. The band manages to make something unique out of it. Two fascinating songs on the album are “Where the River Flows” and “Between Today and Yesterday”, both are calmer songs, and the latter has this singer/songwriter-sound to it. Very unique compared to what the band has done before, and in a positive way. The melodies in these songs really stand out, and to me it is proof that the band has matured even more since the previous releases.

But if you like Amplifier for their more Progressive-side, do not worry. There are plenty of epic moments, the 12 minute song “Extra Vehicular” features a bass line so catchy that any bassist would be jealous, and it has one of the best solo-sections on the entire album. Five of the eight songs on the album are longer than seven minutes, and they all take their time to build up. What makes Echo Street so unique is the fact that most of the songs are fairly calm and light in terms of tone. Previous albums have had heavier, faster and more straightforward songs, but this album sounds almost like you would expect from the front cover.

I also highly recommend checking out Sunriders EP which came as a bonus if you bought the limited version of Echo Street. The songs on the EP are pretty different from how the album sounds, and the title-track on the EP is just as good as the best stuff on the album. Really amazing song with some sweet melodies, overall the EP gives you four songs that does not really fit with the rest of the album, but makes an excellent partner. Echo Street is in my opinion the best album the band has put out so far. I really hope this initial reaction will remain, right now this is an early favorite for best album in 2013. But it is a long year, and anything could happen. Recommended for anyone who likes Progressive music.

Standout tracks: Matmos, Extra Vehicular, Where the River Goes, Paris in the Spring, Between Today and Yesterday.