The Dear Hunter

Equal Vision Records, 2013


REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


After upwards of five albums (depending on how you count), The Dear Hunter finally presents us with their first “normal” record. There’s no sign of their rock opera-like “Acts” series, nor of any super-ambitious concepts like The Color Spectrum. For the first time The Dear Hunter has put out a record with just a bunch of songs on it. On one hand, this frees them from any constraints a conceptual format might create and of the potential drawbacks those forms can sometimes bring (bad lyrics and high bombast levels in the case of the Acts, for example). But on the other hand, self-imposed restrictions can often increase creativity; without them an artist can be left without focus. And a lack of focus seems to be the case here.

Casey Crescenzo is very much in the same sort of songwriting mode he was in on The Color Spectrum, so those who liked that project may also enjoy some of what they find here. In particular, fans of that album’s Violet, White, and Blue segments will find that Migrant largely shares the style of those. But there’s really a little bit of everything mixed together here so I guess it’s fitting that the album cover is brown. The downside is that the styles are blurred together instead of segregated, which results in an album with a lot of different influences but not much of a distinct style of its own.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Migrant, being The Dear Hunter’s most normal album to date, has also seen fit to embrace one of rock music’s unfortunate clichés: generic track ordering. The disc begins very strong (with the lead single positioned as the second track like so many records before it), has an upbeat song to kick off side two, and ends with all the weak material in a row. This does a fine job of giving someone a good first impression of the album, but doesn’t do much to reward long-term listening. The song quality has also dropped off significantly. On average, it’s possibly better than any of the Act albums, but those albums also featured their share of major standouts. Migrant has many good songs, but nothing quite reaching the level of, for example, “The Canopy” or “Smiling Swine.”

Opener “Bring You Down,” and lead single “Whisper” in particular, are great songs with driving rhythms, expansive arrangements, and memorable melodies. Neither would be likely to quite make my top 10 best Dear Hunter tracks list were I to make one, but if this band ever were to put out a best-of compilation, those two absolutely deserve to be this album’s representatives. The obvious downside to placing the two best tracks at the beginning, though, is that the rest of the album can’t hope to match them and while the middle of the album is mostly solid, the record’s back half verges on mediocre to downright bad. There just isn’t a lot memorable going on in many of the songs on side two. The final two tracks in particular are downright boring with nothing whatsoever catching my attention.

The middle of the album is generally solid with some bright spots. But nonetheless the great sections that several of the songs contain don’t really add up into wonderful songs of their own. “Kiss Of Life” has a great chorus, and “Girl” has neat female harmonies, and I would consider both tracks to be minor highlights on this album. But they’re still just merely average songs in the grand scheme of things.

If this album commits any crime, it’s a major tendency for blandness. For as variable in quality as The Dear Hunter’s music has often been in the past, one thing that is unquestionable is how bold it often tended to be. Migrant on the other hand, is with only a few exceptions, as brown as its cover.

Rating: B-

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© 2013 Ken DiTomaso and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Equal Vision Records, and is used for informational purposes only.