Review Summary: Has The Dear Hunter been outhunted?
Context changes everything, and if this weren’t the case, most indie rock fans would enjoy Collisions & Near Misses
much more than they probably will. With the album being a jubilant blend of progressive indie tunes, it’s hard to find things to dislike about the release. Let’s cover all the bases here: memorable songwriting? Check. Exciting instrumentation? Absolutely. And crystal-clear production? Without a doubt. See, every reason exists to think K Sera has debuted at the top of its game.
The band certainly has a great record here, likely due to friends in high places. The most notable thing about the development of Collisions & Near Misses
is that it was produced by The Dear Hunter’s very own Casey Crescenzo. Talk about convenient - the top-tier musician certainly has an ear for gripping melody. In fact, most of the tracks here sound as if they could have easily
been written by Crescenzo himself.
“Ah, but wait,” The Dear Hunter’s fans ask. “Isn’t this some sort of problem?” Sure, The Dear Hunter is a legendary name for a reason. No, it isn’t inherently problematic for a group to resemble a powerful influence - and even less so on a debut, after all - but let’s be honest: this album positively reeks of Casey Crescenzo. “Collisions” functions as the quintessential Dear Hunter opener, a slow-burner that merely hints at what comes next; then “Near Misses” follows up in an expectedly frantic manner, similarly to the second track off, well, any Dear Hunter album. There are numerous structural similarities, too - “St. Peter (Better Than Yours)” works as the poignant ballad expected of the album’s midsection, for example - and this makes the release feel strikingly familiar.
In circumstances like these, music critics have quite the conundrum on their hands. Does a high-quality replica deserve the praise of its predecessors? What’s important to keep in mind, though, is that replication is an important part of a band’s growth. All bands go through this phase in their beginnings, as much as we may fancy thinking otherwise. The difference with K Sera is that the band, along with Crescenzo, has made the album out to be more than an evolution. However, the album could easily pass as the next release by the Dear Hunter, and call me crazy, but I actually see this as a great thing.
Honestly, I’d be more irked about the similarities at hand if they weren’t so masterfully executed. Collisions & Near Misses
is a remarkably consistent album, one that perfects the idea of quality triumphing over quantity. In only ten tracks, K Sera accomplish what The Dear Hunter has failed to do thus far, to create a concise summary of its sound. The album has its theatrical numbers, indeed, like “Meditations in an Emergency” and its piano-driven melody. In other places K Sera follows a straight-forward rock approach, with singer Mike Caswell leading the pack in expectedly cinematic fashion. Each track here can easily be a highlight, too, under the right circumstances, but “Ambien” is on another level. The track begins with infectious handclaps and piano hits of the verse, building to coalesce into the ending’s successful experiment with vocal harmonies. In moments like these, the realization strikes that K Sera is truly one of the most promising indie groups out there, and that critics faulting them for being 'unoriginal' are missing the point entirely.
It all feels familiar, sure, but how much does it matter? It’s undeniable that K Sera will carve its own niche in the future, and it would be silly to dismiss the band for taking influence from the best. As long as one doesn’t dig into the heart of this album with expectations of originality, Collisions & Near Misses
will present itself as the promising, fine-tuned indie rock album it is.