Review Summary: Breathe in and let go.Migrant
is an album where Casey Crescenzo is out to prove that he’s human. There are a lot of reasons for him to think that this is something he has to do, but most of it has to do with the fact that he has created a story that’s carried on for the duration of three critically acclaimed progressive rock albums. If that’s not enough to make him superhuman, you can also toss in the daunting nine EP collection released only two years ago that managed to succeed across nine only vaguely related genres. Sure, it’s not hard to see how a Casey Crescenzo listening to the music press feels a need to tell the world that he’s still only a man by foregoing the pretense of a concept album and the character of “The Dear Hunter” in order to bring us closer to the problems he faces in life and love just like the rest of us.
Okay, I can buy that, but I think the one thing that may have slipped Casey’s mind is just how much of him is in the character that he’s created. The lamentations, tribulations, and celebrations that we hear on Migrant
are really no different than those we’d hear on any one of The Dear Hunter’s “Act” releases. This is because Casey created an authentic character and an authentic experience when he wrote his story and his songs, which is what makes them as emotionally intriguing and involved as they are. And they’re probably as genuine as they are because they’re based on emotional experience. So don’t worry so much about letting the rest of us know you bleed like the rest of us, Casey. Or at least don’t worry about doing it in such certain terms. We may bop along with your music like rats in Hamelin, but we’re smarter than the average bear.
Beyond the simple pretense of “no pretense” and emotional soul-bearing, Migrant
really isn’t too derivative from the rest of the catalog Casey and crew have provided us with. It’s a softer album at its core, but the more relaxed approach featured on Migrant
has been draped through previous offerings in lighter loads. While the approach to airiness has never been quite this dense, the best precursor to Migrant
could be the group’s White
EP, which focused on piano, atmospherics, and vocals above all else. There are a few more bells and whistles here and the album has a few tracks that rock harder than the rest (“Whisper,” “An Escape,” “Girl”), but on the whole, the album represents a soft, emotional breeze that Casey’s allowing to blow into the theater between acts in his grand performance.
What can make Migrant
appear to be a slightly weaker release from the powerhouse lies almost exclusively in the nuance of significance and patience. While tracks like “An Escape” and “The Kiss of Life” quickly dig their way into your heart and mind with powerful choruses you’re likely to sing along with, the bluesy “Shouting at the Rain” and the softly flowing “This Vicious Place” take their time in gaining the same sort of name recognition. The former tracks tend to have an immediate impact (as much of The Dear Hunter’s back catalog does) while the latter recall the term “deep tracks” and ask for a little prolonged listening in exchange for the promise of aural dividends.
But, deep or shallow, all tracks on Migrant
have the hallmark over-the-top instrumentation and sweet serenades we’ve come to expect from The Dear Hunter. While the pianos and vocals certainly have the foreground on most of the album’s tracks, the orchestral flutters and swells that augment tracks like “Sweet Naiveté” flesh out the album’s otherwise stripped-down sound and illuminate those primary components like searchlights passing through clouds. In the wake, the most audible guitars act primarily as the sounding of horns heralding the arrival of the next big chorus on the softer tracks (“Let Go”).
Meanwhile, the Crescenzo family croon extends to Casey’s sister, Azia, whose vocal performance on “Girl” is both ethereal and reminiscent of Chondra Echert’s work with The Prize Fighter Inferno in scope and tone. His mother provides backing vocals on “Shame,” which is the Violet
’s The Color Spectrum
, resulting in a vocal performance which leaves no one surprised with the way Casey’s voice turned out – mostly because it sounds like he could have recorded her parts in his own smooth Tenor. But the real family success story on Migrant
(outside of Casey) is the drumming of brother Nick. While the battery has certainly taken on a laid back quality that fits the rest of the music on the album, Nick Crescenzo manages to play his subtle role in a way that never feels subdued or restrained and which adds a certain vitality to an album which might otherwise lack motivation.
But it’s not Migrant
that needs motivation in the end. Though it may not have the grandiose showmanship of an “Act,” it’s an album that’s full of the same inspired songwriting we’ve always gotten out of Casey Crescenzo executed to a perfectionistic degree by The Dear Hunter. No, the real test with Migrant
is whether or not the listener is willing to take the time to lay back and let the breeze of the album pass over for them as it is, or if they’re going to try to take it at a clip and pass judgment on it as something it isn’t. So breathe in and let go.