Monday, May 28, 2007

Live: The Dear Hunter and Days Away

Yesterday, Sunday May 27, 2007 “The Dear Hunter” played at the Trocadero in Philadelphia with “Days Away” and “Person L.” If you’ve never been, the Troc is very small and a great spot for an intimate show. However, it’s not without its flaws. The standing room is very cramped, which is to be expected and it got hot very quickly. One of the biggest drawbacks is that after each set, the band who just finished had the lug all their gear off the front of the stage and through the crowd. It obviously doesn’t affect the quality of the show itself, but it was a minor annoyance. Secondly, the sound tech (for this show at least) had amateur and douche bag written all over him. Throughout the show (even during sets) he shoved his way through the crowd to get on stage and fiddle with something several times, and each time it wasn’t quite apparent what exactly he was doing, besides annoying the crowd.

Now, to the more important part of this review: First up was “Person L.” I’m actually sure if “The Starting Line” is still around or if Ken Vasoli (their lead singer) is just working on this side project. What really matters though, is that they weren’t very good at all. Their music wasn’t exactly very refined and it lacked anything of interest. In order to try to keep the crowd interested Vasoli (on guitar) over acted and jumped around a whole lot, not always during parts of songs you might expect a little bit of action. Sadly, their most enjoyable song was a cover of a song by “The Roots.” To give them some credit, they said it was only their third show ever, but I don’t think they’re going to improve too too much.

Second up for the night was “Days Away.” Prior to the show I’d never put too much interest in them. All I had ever heard from them was an older release the “ESP EP.” However, after seeing them, I intend to seek out some of their other stuff, including their new album when it comes out. Their music was very tight and it was immediately obvious that they’ve been around for some time (1998 specifically). Their new music was interesting and fits perfectly into their indie and at times almost ambient sound. The lead singer reproduces his high vocals with rock solid accuracy and the back up work of the rest of the band was also excellent.

The point of the night, however, was “The Dear Hunter” and they delivered! At the beginning of the show, it wasn’t obvious if the crowd was there for The Dear Hunter or if it was mostly comprised of little girl fans of “The Starting Line.” However, it became immediately clear that it was The Dear Hunter that drew the crowd. Throughout their set the audience screamed all of the words at the top of their lungs. Somewhat disappointingly they only played about 6 songs, but their set lasted all of an hour, including one encore. Their sound was excellent even without all the bells and whistles of the studio recording. The show was thoroughly worth the wait and the hot cramped setting.

Below are a few pictures from the show plus three videos. Enjoy!

Person L

Days Away

The Dear Hunter

Days Away

The Dear Hunter - The Church and The Dime

The Dear Hunter - Red Hands

Friday, May 25, 2007

A (Potentially) Interesting Tid-Bit

If you’re interested in the review below (or here) then you might be interested to hear that this Sunday night (May 27, 2007) I’ll be going to see The Dear Hunter live with a couple of friends at the Trocadero in Philadelphia. So hopefully I’ll have some good things to say about their live performance and maybe a few photos to keep your interest. The Dear Hunter will be performing with Days Away and Person L, which is Ken Vasoli of The Starting Line. Also, if you’re interested in going, as of the time of this post tickets are still available via Ticketmaster. They go for $10, but with all the bogus fees it comes out to somewhere around $15.

The Dear Hunter - Act II: The Mean Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading

Band: The Dear Hunter
Album: Act II: The Mean Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading
Release Date: May 22, 2007
Label: Triple Crown

These days Triple Crown has a talented and varied group of artists, including “Brand New” and “As Tall As Lions,” but the musical creativity of their lineup seems to pale in comparison to “The Dear Hunter,” especially after Casey Crescenzo’s latest offering, “Act II: The Mean Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading.” “Act I: The Lake South, The River North” effectively set in motion a multi-act musical epic. The EP “Act I” although lasting about forty minutes contained more musical depth than most indie and rock releases these days. The extensive variety of instrumentation provided the EP with an astounding number of musical styles ranging from the jam session-esque “The Inquiry of Ms. Terri” to the almost spectral and eerie “City Scape.”

After 2006’s release of “Act I” the question lingered what would come next? With the astounding accomplishment already under The Dear Hunter’s belt could the follow up be as intriguing or masterful? Could Casey and crew live up to their previous creation? The answer is yes, unmistakably yes. Not only does “Act II” continue the concept story from last year, there are noticeable improvements in the mastermind’s vocals and the music is even more complex and wonderfully varied.

Early in the album sits “The Lake and the River” which is rich with various shakers chimes and lesser-used hand instruments. Crescenzo’s matured vocals are easily noticeable here as the song is deepened by additional background chanting vocals that create the driving and urgent atmosphere of the track. The toe-tapping ragtime of “The Oracles On The Delphi Express” adds not only to the album’s stylistic range but also to its lovable and endearing quality.

The Bitter Suite, Parts 1, 2, & 3 span over thirteen minutes and transform gracefully shifting through a variety of musical movements. In opening a solely piano backed serenade welcomes the listener. The song builds with snowballing emotion until it comes to head with elegant crashes and crescendos from the full band. The collections third movement comes after a brief tailing off and begins an instantly endearing jazzy toe-tapper. “Part 2” comes to an understated end using shakers and other underutilized instruments. “Part 3” begins similarly with soft and emotional piano but quickly moves into yet another movement as drums and understated chimes and backing vocals create a fully-realized atmosphere. The song continues through an assortment of highs and lows culminating eerily with a beautifully concocted cacophony of horns and spectral echoes.

One of the epic album’s ear catching standouts, “Smiling Swine,” is dripping with a matured show tune feel that keeps the pace of the album moving with fleshed out accompanying vocals and finger snaps. The fifteenth and final track of “Act II,” “Vital Vessels Vindicate” also wanders through a number of musical movements and at times is directly reminiscent of “Act I: The Lake South, The River North.” It is the perfect closing to this amazingly complex album.
Had it had ever been a question if “Act I” was merely a fluke, not a stroke of musical genius, that possibility is no longer. “Act II” demonstrates full well that Casey Crescenzo is musically talented beyond a shadow of a doubt. Once again (and in such a short period of time) he’s released an absolutely epic concept album that not offers up a riveting story but it’s portrayed in masterful musical detail. The only question left now, is how will The Dear Hunter follow up this release with Act III and when will our ears be graced by it?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Upcoming This Week

After taking a week off after my review of "On The Verge", I’ll be starting back up again with the newest release from former TREOS front man Casey Crescenzo. Last year saw the release of The Dear Hunter’s EP, "Act I: The Lake South, The River North." In a short period of time following this concept has received its full-length second part, "Act II: The Meaning of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading." Check back later this week for my review.

Also, I’ve started back up with posting at Bêtise after a nearly month long hiatus, so please head over there and see what’s going on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Years Gone By – On The Verge

Band: The Years Gone By
Album: On The Verge
Release Date: May 1, 2007
Label: None/DIY

Like the past week’s review, this too is late, considerably late. If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been posting much lately, here or at Bêtise. I haven’t really had the motivation to write a post, or worry about reviewing a CD. I haven’t even had much motivation to even read the blogs and news that I usually check up on daily. I’ve been mulling it over for a while, and I fully intend to keep on here, but Bêtise, might not have as favorable a fate. There’s nothing definite, I might just be in a slump, with the end of the semester upon me, and after all it’s finals week here. That aside, I’ve listened to On The Verge a few times, and I’m prepared to give it a short review.

This time around, The Years Gone By, aren’t offering up much of anything new. Last year’s self-titled was upbeat and full of fun catchy lyrics. The Years Gone By are hometown heroes taking the plunge into the music industry trying to get by with energetic live performances and the DIY spirit. I’ve got to give them credit for that. They’re a group of hardworking guys who love music. They’ve got the energy and the will to make it, but they’ve stuck themselves right in the middle of an aging genre that is quickly growing stale.

“Them 1, Me 0” is full of poppy full band chants and hard hitting guitars, but it just doesn’t seem to do it for me. “Anniversary” too, has all the makings of a good pop-punk song: catchy chorus and lyrics full of fun hooks, a driving beat, and energetic breakdowns, but again, it doesn’t have much lasting power.

I’m not sure what’s causing my lack luster response to the EP. I’m left wondering if my tastes have just changed too much, or if I feel like I’ve heard it all before, and maybe this time it’s just not as good. Unfortunately, I feel it’s not the first reason. In fact, lately my account has been inundated with the likes of Allister, A New Found Glory, and Fenix TX. So, far from it, if anything I was primed for a great pop-punk release. I fear then that I’ve just heard it all before. The Years Gone By haven’t grown into a new sound at all. In fact, they’ve even re-recorded the opening track from their self-titled, “Sever The Ties.” Even though it seems like its got a little more emotion to it this time around, I find myself longing for the original version.

When I first found out that The Years Gone By were coming out with a new EP I was really excited. Their full-length earned many plays for me, and I was hoping for a stellar follow up, but unfortunately I’ve come away a little disappointed. Hopefully, as they continue their sound will mature and they’ll be able to forge a new road in the weakening pop-punk genre. However, until then it seems like they might just remain a “High School Sensation.”

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Upcoming: This Week

Out yesterday (Tuesday May 1, 2007) is the On The Verge EP from The Years Gone By. They’re a local band, from Freehold, NJ. I’ve been a fan of them for a few years, ever since I saw them at a show at the firehouse in my town. They’ve got a lot of energy and a genuine pop punk sound. They released their debut self-titled last year and it earned itself quite a few listens from me.

As I recall a few songs from this EP can by found at their myspace, so if you’d like a preview head over there. My review for this should be up in the next few days, so check back then to read my conclusions.