There’s a reason that certain albums resonate with us at different times. Some records just sound right as the leaves change color and the air cools during autumn months while others require warmer temperatures and brighter skies. Some songs make more sense on a rainy day than they do when the sun is shining brightly. The beauty of music lies in its canvas, which offers endless possibilities to the artist should they be willing to take on the task of creation with honesty, vision and passion. A true artist is able to utilize this canvas in order to capture something beautiful, something that captures an emotion, a time, a place, a feeling. This is what makes The Dear Hunter’s latest offering The Color Spectrum such an incredible work and an album that deserves to be heard and discussed more than most this year.
Since Casey Crescenzo’s departure from post-hardcore outfit The Receiving End of Sirens a little more than five years ago, he’s had his nose to the grindstone with his experimental brainchild, The Dear Hunter, and is currently three acts into a six album story arc about the life and death of a boy set at the dawn of the 20th century. After 2009’s Act III: Life and Death, Crescenzo was in need of a break from the very world he had created, and it was during this respite from the story that he created what could very well go down as his masterpiece. The Color Spectrum, just as the name implies, is a collection of nine EPs, each solely dedicated to one of the nine colors of the visible color spectrum—black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet and white. The EPs are available in full as a vinyl box set or a digital download as well as in the form of a standard edition CD, which features individual tracks plucked from each respective EP.
Crescenzo’s vision and artistry excels on two different levels across The Color Spectrum. First, the musicianship presented on this latest work far surpasses any of his previous releases with The Dear Hunter. The Color Spectrum is a work that cannot be confined within a single genre. Whether it’s the dark, ambient, electronic sounds found on the black EP, the aggressive and grungy rock of the red EP, or the stripped down acoustic feel that envelopes the green EP, each song is crafted wisely and purposefully. Never have Crescenzo’s musical abilities been executed as sharply as they are on The Color Spectrum, which leads into the second point. The Dear Hunter’s ability to capture the essence of each color within the album’s 36 tracks is astounding and a testament to his creativity and uniqueness, traits which are all too often lost in the landscape of today’s music scene. The Color Spectrum is a labor of love that certainly required hours of undivided attention and care.
The dark, ambiguous imagery of the black EP is felt best on “Filth and Squalor”, which finds Crescenzo uttering the hopeless lines “I always knew that the damned would inherit the earth / As soon as they learned to speak, we would be suffering” during the track’s eerie chorus. In contrast, the victorious piano ballad “Home” from the white EP includes a resounding chorus of “Help is on the way / You can come back home”. Upbeat, peppy rocker “But There’s Wolves?” from the orange EP features some of the best guitar work along with some of the best vocals found on the collection, as Crescenzo sings “I’m not the kind to wait, modeled to instigate / But always end up toeing the line”. Just as Crescenzo’s vocals range from angsty and aggressive to delicate and gentle depending on where you find yourself on the Spectrum, the band’s instrumentation adapts seamlessly throughout the course of the journey, laying a backdrop perfect for the fast paced (orange, red) or even the most relaxed of days (blue, violet).
It would not serve worthwhile to ramble on through the myriad of sounds and tracks on the mammoth Color Spectrum, which is just as well, as the album deserves to be heard and pondered in sequence. Some listeners will find the two and a half hour affair daunting and will likely gravitate toward the more manageable standard edition. Others will find pleasure in experiencing each color at their own pace and will be pleased at the vinyl box set experience. All the way from its incredible creation and sonic display to its variety of presentations, The Color Spectrum has covered all of the bases and proved itself as an album worthy of repeated listens. While it’s unclear whether The Dear Hunter will finish the final three acts of its previous story, it serves us all well that a break was taken in the form of The Color Spectrum, an album that has set the bar this year for thoughtful, experimental music.