The Dear Hunter - Act II: The Meaning of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading (Cover Artwork)

The Dear Hunter

Act II: The Meaning of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading (2007)

Triple Crown

The Dear Hunter's frontman Casey Crescenzo shows that there is life after being a part of the Receiving End Of Sirens with the release of the Dear Hunter's debut full-length album, Act II: The Meaning of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading on Triple Crown Records. Act II is the followup to the band's 2006 debut EP Act I: The Lake South, The River North. Produced, engineered, and mixed by Crescenzo, Act II is a requiem of orchestral rock, jazz-pop, and country blues proportions with sections of banjo performed by Crescenzo's father Phil Crescenzo, the harp played by Krysten Keches, violins conducted by Matt Tobin, trumpet and French horn treatments from Jason Belcher, and cello accents by Philip Wolford and Brandon Brooks.

The album is a rock drama about a boy whose mother, Ms. Terri from Act I, dies and the boy is set into the world on his own. Each track is a narration of his tale, sometimes taking on a hard-edged guitar rock delivery reminiscent of Circa Survive and Thrice like the tunage for "Dear Ms. Leading," and at other times a country blues shading with orchestral tones like on "The Oracles on the Delphi Express." Some aspects of the Dear Hunter's music, which may remind fans of Crescenzo's former band, is the use of transitions to produce lively tempo changes and layers of stimulation and mobility through the melodies. The harmonies are spot on, like the rumbling drumbeats accelerating the swirls of horns and angelic bell chimes. There is a cabaret/theatrical-pop vibe in tracks like "The Bitter Suite" and "Smiling Swine," which also features finger-snapping backbeats and arousing jazz-pop textures.

The country rock melody on "Black Sandy Beaches" spins a striking acoustic guitar and string arrangement while the rhythmic motions for "Blood of the Rose" have a classic tango clasp. The keyboard ascensions on "Where the Road Parts" have a similar orientation to Panic! at the Disco while the piano taps on "Vital Vessle Vindicates" have a jazz-pop lacquer. The rolling vocals and soft rock momentum of "Red Hands" places the focus on Crescenzo's voice and words as he sings, "Even if you never strayed from me I'd question your fidelity / There'll always be a shroud of suspicion and my heart's a liability / With your hands maroon so freshly red / Wrap your lips around my neck / Try and force to love the thought of me / Simple motions make me ill." The lyrics reflect on crushed feelings that were once filled with trust but have become crippled and beaten down by people's deceit and are now consumed with skepticism. The lyrics are dark but still desire to believe.

The Dear Hunter, whose members include Crescenzo on lead vocals and multiple instruments, keyboardist Luke Dent, his brother and the band's drummer Sam Dent, and guitarist Erick Serna have put together a very ambitious album that takes fans through a number of music prisms from classic chamber pop and orchestral textures to country blues, jazz-pop, and modern rock. Act II works on many levels from art rock to pop-rock to world music. The album goes beyond the music Crescenzo was making with the Receiving End of Sirens, but keeps it just as stimulating.