Publicity photo via Bandcamp

The Dear Hunter: All Is As All Should Be EP

Although All Is As All Should Be is a tad too brief to match its precursors, it's still a masterful blend of songwriting, arrangements, and singing that satisfies the Dear Hunter anticipation.

The Dear Hunter is undoubtedly one of the best—and consequently, most egregiously underappreciated—bands of the last decade or so. Aside from 2013’s Migrant LP, every one of their major releases featured an ambitious hook; for example, 2011’s The Color Spectrum presented nine EPs (consisting of four songs each) that individually represented a different sonic tone (in order: Black, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, and White), whereas the five-part (so far) Act saga, with its genre-shifting arrangements, superlative songwriting, narrative complexity, and extraordinary conceptual continuity, is a cumulative work of genius, plain and simple.

Unsurprisingly, this penchant continues on All Is As All Should Be, a six-track sequence born from the group’s fanbase. Specifically—and as he explains in his Medium piece—mastermind Casey Crescenzo “reach[ed] out to six people [he] had known through the band for a long time—people [he] had the pleasure of coming to know beyond the context of a performance. They would pick a general musical vibe, as well as the lyrical theme—then, [the band] would write a song, and record it (instrumentally) in their home on an off day from tour.” While its length and level of familiarity make All Is As All Should Be the least essential record in their catalog, that’s really only a testament to how remarkable its predecessors are, as this 25-minute collection maintains everything that made their prior non-Act efforts so remarkable.

The disc kicks off with the raucous yet charming “The Right Wrong”, a thrilling blend of intricate intensity and genuine self-reflection that’s reminiscent of tracks like “A Night on the Town”. Its sophisticated syncopation, hearty riffs, and multilayered outcries are especially captivating, as are Crescenzo’s typically impeccable lead singing and plaintive lyrics (“Would I return to you / To the love I knew / Or would I have undone / All the good that gives misery meaning”). In contrast, “Blame Paradise” has an electric undercurrent and off-kilter rhythmic consistency that packs plenty of ominous serenity, while “Beyond the Pale” showcases one of Crescenzo’s greatest artistic forms: the demonstrative acoustic ballad. Offering percussion that’s both delicate and thunderous, as well as a few subtle keyboard flare-ups and angelic harmonies throughout, it’s an arresting listen for sure.

The remaining trio of songs is equally strong, too. “Shake Me (Awake)”, for instance, is as close as The Dear Hunter has ever come to capturing the uplifting and dreamy Motown/Beatles/Beach Boys-esque essence of ’60s rock/pop (including plenty of rapturous vocal intersections). The penultimate “Witness Me”, on the other hand, is far more somber and panicked, with sharp guitar chords oscillating around choral counterpoints, programmed textures, and feisty drumming. Once again, Crescenzo conveys foreboding and urgency with superlative grace and precision—matching his performances on gems like “Blood” and “Dear Ms. Leading”—and the concluding chant of “keep dreaming” is easily the most simplistically heartrending part of All Is As All Should Be. Like most Dear Hunter closers, the title track ends the EP on a note of touching profundity, with light instrumentation complementing Crescenzo’s forceful realizations and reflections (“Is all that remains / The will to start again / Or Is there more retained / When another life begins?”). It’s a tad quirky, a tad boisterous, a tad subdued, and wholly effective, gorgeous, and wise, leaving listeners entertained, moved, and quite impressed.

Although All Is As All Should Be is a tad too brief and expectable to match its precursors, it’s still a masterful blend of songwriting, arrangements, and singing whose staggering diversity, density, and memorability satisfy the already astronomical Dear Hunter anticipation. As such—and like the rest of the band’s discography—it also serves as a benchmark for how striving, meaningful, and fascinating modern music, in general, should be, proving once again why the Dear Hunter is truly a one-of-a-kind group that deserves as much acclamation as any of its peers.

RATING 8 / 10