Review Summary: I can’t tell just which option is worse, dying pure or aware?
In ‘The Collapse of Great Tide Cliffs’, Casey Crescenzo’s voice hits a series of worldless high notes that, for maybe the first time, are all at once powerful, moving and broken. It’s kind of strange. Being a storyteller and having dedicated his entire band to writing a six-album concept suite, the man has never really had room to emote in his music. Every once and a while, the story would technically call for some emotion - such as when the concept’s main character finds out his girl’s a prostitute in the classic ‘Red Hands’ - but while the music’s theatrics and execution is always top notch, it turns out Crescenzo really isn’t a very good actor. He can write the parts and set the scene but he’s always sounded a bit detached from his role in the story. So, what happens when Crescenzo writes about himself? It’s a question I have reserved for Colin Meloy too - what would it be like if a man who’s committed to storytelling started writing something pretty personal? Well, for Casey Crescenzo, you apparently just get a colour.
has the wet, morose, down-tempo atmosphere that you’d expect from a hue that singlehandedly defined an entire genre of mournful music. And while The Dear Hunter already got the blues rock out of their system on Orange, Crescenzo hadn’t yet gotten a chance to croon, so to speak. That’s why we get a song like the delightfully sloppy ‘Trapdoor’, a song loosely hinged on a watery 6/8 progression and on Crescenzo’s intentionally lazy vocal melodies. The song has a fragile swagger - it never falls apart but it constantly threatens to. And while it reaches a satisfying close with one of Crescenzo’s famed high-notes and his proclamation of “the profits will outweigh your cause if the only thing you want is love”
, the song and Crescenzo himself sound like a loosely knit sweater slowly unraveling - held together by tape and clothespins.
‘What You Said’ is similar in presentation: sung all in head-tones and sounding wetter than a pond, it plods along somberly in a sea of reverb, clean-guitar tones and understated drumming before climaxing into a messy explosion of post-rock, white noise and melody. It is perhaps the most linear song on Blue
but its genre-crossing outro is entirely new territory for the band - the lack of obvious melody, the presence of speed-picked ambient guitar lines and lazy cymbal swells lack the perfectionism Crescenzo is renowned for and speaks volumes about the band’s dedication to making something that sounded different for them. Something that sounded blue
. But it’s not long before the aforementioned ‘The Collapse of the Great Tide Cliffs’ revisits post-rock territory with its slightly more melodic but equally powerful climax: subtly igniting on the tail of two minutes worth of piano-led photography metaphors and Crescenzo’s undoubtedly most emotional vocals yet comes a flourish of picked arpeggios, distant but driven drumming and what ultimately is perhaps the band’s most uplifting piece of music yet. It’s focused and hopeful but is self-referential to the muted, melancholic four songs that precede it - a final last hurrah of damage repair after a brief exercise in emotion.
And ultimately, there’s a passage in ‘Tripping in Triplets’ that finds Crescenzo feeling that good ol’ I’m-just-not-good-enough
vibe in a potent but simple metaphor of having two left feet. He sings, “Am I stuck at the ankle or caught at the knee, a curious puzzle still cursing me - to follow or lead?
” and unlike anything off the band’s prior work, he might actually
be asking the question. The EP might be a little less tidy than its other colour-counterparts and might not be the most gripping melodically, but it reveals a side of Crescenzo's personality we never knew he had: his personality itself. Blue
, at the end of all roads, simply taps into what makes music a testimony, and not just a dramatic retelling.