As a fairly rabid fan of The Dear Hunter, every little announcement gets me fairly excited. Whether it be the announcement of an ambitious set of EP’s, each representing its own color, or the announcement of a new addition to their “Acts” series, when The Dear Hunter speak, I listen. This leads me to the declaration of their newest work, “The Branches EP.” Said EP had little to no buildup to its release, as it was merely a minor extra the band threw in for those who ordered their “Lifetime Fan Package.” And really, that’s what the EP boils down to, an affair strictly for the fans.
At three songs in length, “The Branches EP” is short, but sweet. A morsel, rather than an actual feast, the EP is merely a few songs from the band, plain and simple. But for fans, any little release is still something to celebrate, and “The Branches EP” really doesn’t disappoint. And how could it? With such a low key release, the EP was destined for obscurity, finding its way to the very few who would acquire it. With absolutely no hype to back it, the release needs not be an ideal one, but rather, a small celebration of a band at the height of their careers.
Yet when I say this is strictly for the fans, I say that wholeheartedly. As far as The Dear Hunter releases go, “The Branches EP” is fairly tame. The epically bombastic passages mixed with cool jazz and extravagant swing simply are not here. Instead, the EP features the more alternative rock side of the band, with lower key songs, and a slightly more simplistic song structure. And this is really the EP’s biggest failing. As far as releases go, “The Branches EP” is the least representative piece the band has put out. The songs are great, albeit not as catchy, and they are easily listenable and enjoyable.
However, “B. Linus” offers up an incredibly strong listen, as it is the most catchy on the EP. Per the usual, Casey Crescenzo does an awesome job in the vocal department. With a lot of variation, Crescenzo can get the highs and lows, and the louds and softs with absolute finesse, an the opening track is very representative of this. The next track, “Isabella,” opens up in a more minimalist fashion, featuring a subdued guitar and airy croon. In typical Dear Hunter fashion, this lasts only for a bit, leading into a much more grandiose section. More post-hardcore in its execution, “Isabelle” is a little more different from its predecessor. The third and final song, “Owls,” is a little quirkier than the other two, but is ultimately the weakest. It offers some neat percussion work, with small hits of a xylophone interlaced with the guitars, but is incredibly flat as a whole. It stays at the same tempo and dynamic level throughout, and doesn’t really go anywhere. Regardless, it is still an interesting track, yet it falls short of anything else the band has done.
“The Branches EP” is a nifty release, as it is fun and wholly enjoyable, but harmless nonetheless. While it is a nice love letter to the fans, as an individual release, it simply does not match the success of their previous releases.