The Color Spectrum

The Dear Hunter

Triple Crown, 2011

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


Now *this* is what I’m talking about. With the Acts left behind in the dust (for now at least), The Dear Hunter is free to create something really special. It’s a concept album again, but this time around the concept is one of form rather than substance. There are no bombastic stories here; instead, Casey Crescenzo takes a systematic approach to songwriting. He has chosen nine colors and nine genres to correspond to those colors. Each color/genre becomes an EP that gets four songs, and then the whole thing is sequenced (beginning with Black,) cycles through the whole rainbow, and ends with White. It’s a really smart idea, and while some acts have done similar things before, The Dear Hunter totally sticks the landing, creating a record that works on multiple levels.

The singing and playing throughout this record is actually a little generic, but I don’t mean that in a negative way. Each part of the album feels very representative of its respective genre without too much of the band's own quirks and individuality getting in the way. The genres that are tackled are all current ones; even a more old-school genre such as Orange’s classic rock is approached in the same way a modern band would approach it. Likewise the production is also very modern. This will inevitably date the album in the long run but I don’t have any problems at all with that. It's like a time capsule on the various states of rock at the turn of the decade. If someone 20 years from now asked "what did popular folk-rock sound like in 2011?" you'd be just as well-off putting on the Green EP as you would be by putting on some Mumford And Sons (heck, you'd be better off), and the same goes for nearly every genre here.

The sequencing of this album is inspired. Each EP is placed next to the one with which it has the most in common stylistically. So there are no sudden shifts from one approach to the next. The various genres and moods develop gradually as you go though the EPs. Black’s pessimism gives way to Red’s anger, which is turned into more neutral emotions on Orange and ends up with Yellow’s happiness. The instrumentation from Yellow through Indigo becomes sparser and more atmospheric with each EP. Not only that but each EP is arranged to flow like an album on its own. It’s more obvious on vinyl where each EP has its own disc, but even in CD or digital form you can feel that the EPs have clear opening and closing tracks.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The other great thing about an album divided into little chunks like this is that you can listen to it in a myriad of different ways. If you don’t feel like braving its full nearly two-and-a-half hour length in one go each EP stands on its own perfectly well, making for succinct 13-17 minute listens. Alternately you could reverse that. If you find one EP really doesn’t work for you, skip it and play the album as a whole without it. Or you could experiment, I once played the album though starting with White and playing each side one in reverse order and then working my way back with every side two. As one might expect with a record as diverse as this, the album also works wonderfully on shuffle. And if you do listen to it in order all the way through you’ll quickly realize that an album that significantly changes every 15 minutes is quite hard to get bored of!

The quality of the songwriting is consistently high, which is an astounding achievement for an album that is 36 tracks long. Not a single track is filler, there are no interludes, no instrumentals, and no pointless fluff tracks. Most albums of epic length could have easily been improved with some trimming, but even ignoring the fact that shortening it would ruin the concept, the songwriting is so even that it would be almost impossible to compact this down to a single album. It’s worth mentioning that an abridged 11-track “Sampler Edition” actually does exist and you can buy it, but it drops so many great songs, so why would you want to?

My one tiny little gripe with the songs, is that while the quality throughout is extremely consistent, the average level is mostly “very good” as opposed to “amazing,” but that's not really a knock against the album at all. Some particular standouts include the jovial “She’s Always Singing” from the Yellow EP, “Home” and “Lost But Not All Gone” from the anthemic and emotional White EP, the time signature twisting “Take More Than You Need” from Black, and Indigo’s glitchy “What Time Taught Us.” Green’s gorgeous “The Canopy” might be my favorite Dear Hunter song to date. There are really too many good songs here to name, let alone describe!

It's next to impossible to pick out the best and worst EPs aside from simply favoring whichever one fits with your personal musical tastes most. For me, Black, Green, and Yellow stood out as the best initially, but the quality of the music on every EP is nearly the same across the board. The ones I didn’t like as much at first grew on me by leaps and bounds on repeated listens. After hearing this album many times, I’ve grown to feel that if there is a weak link it would have to be Red where the songs feel a tad less memorable on the whole. But if someone disagreed with me on that I could hardly argue since this album is just that even.

This record functions as a sort of modern-rock compendium, touching on a little bit of everything that’s happened in rock music in the past five years or so. If I met a music fan who teleported here from the ‘80s, this is the album I’d provide to get them up to speed. There was definitely no creative burnout halfway through like there is on many other epic-length projects; consistency is the name of the game. The various portions function both as standalone works, but they also add up to a greater whole. With The Colour Spectrum, The Dear Hunter has made what is easily their best album to date and I struggle to imagine them ever topping it.

Rating: A

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© 2012 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 Triple Crown, and is used for informational purposes only.