Review Summary: It is difficult to find flaws damning enough to consider this anything other than one of 2011’s premier releases in alternative rock. The Dear Hunter present to us their crowning achievement to date; enjoy it.
Ambition can be the best thing or the worst thing to happen to an album. Too much of it without a clear premise can lead to disaster…however, with the perfect blend of novelty, execution, and talent, it can yield a timeless masterpiece. One doesn’t need to look beyond the likes of Radiohead or Pink Floyd to witness a first rate concept album that, despite its overabundance of pretension, succeeds on just about every level. Now our darling alt-rockers, The Dear Hunter, with their theatrical approach and penchant for storylines between albums, don’t strike us as a generation defining band – but they certainly are not as appalling as Sum 41 (Underclass Hero
) or My Chemical Romance (Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
) either. The truth about their latest album, or technically I should call it an EP collection, is that it is right where you would expect it to be within that realm of comparison: somewhere in the middle
Fortunately though, that doesn’t mean that The Color Spectrum
is mediocre. In fact, it is a hell of a lot closer to the aforementioned timeless albums than it is to anything disappointing. The Dear Hunter have created a grand musical opus that rarely disappoints, is consistently thrilling, and is extremely memorable. In fact, its primary (and perhaps only
) failings occur within the execution of the “color spectrum” concept, which despite its originality, is never fully realized through the music
. It isn’t like when Thrice created The Alchemy Index
, and you could hear one song and know whether it was from the “Fire”, “Water”, “Earth”, or “Air” disk. To be fair though, The Dear Hunter have taken on a far more ambitious concept, releasing nine
separate EPs reflecting each color on the spectrum. Not only is that a lot of music to write, but colors are a bit harder to represent through music than elements. It isn’t as simple as throwing a lot of reverb at the listeners when you want them to feel scorched and utilizing an array of echoing digital effects to cool them down. How one goes about representing a color is more subtle, and it takes a keen ear on both the artist’s and listener’s part to appreciate what the notes are trying to represent, what emotions they are trying to bring out, and ultimately, what color they are trying to make you feel. The ambiguity of the idea also leaves a lot open to interpretation; what blue means to me may mean something entirely different to you, and it could evoke completely different emotional responses. But in order to avoid a full neurological dissection of electric impulses in the human brain, let’s just say it’s like choosing animals
for a class project and expecting to be able to encapsulate the topic’s essence in one presentation. It just isn’t
going to happen. Here, it seems that The Dear Hunter may have taken on an idea that is slightly too broad for its own good – sure, they absolutely nail it occasionally, but they never really gather consistent conceptual momentum. For all of its catchiness, quality craftsmanship, and songwriting prowess, The Color Spectrum
isn’t focused enough to achieve its ultimate goal.
Despite that noticeable flaw, The Color Spectrum
rolls on all cylinders from just about every other
perspective. Musically it is massive, but the division of the music into EPs as well as its sheer listenability prevent The Color Spectrum
from becoming overbearing at any point. Each “color” has at least one awe-inspiring moment, and more often than not, The Dear Hunter see every EP through from start to finish. While it may be true that some songs cause the work as a whole to drag a little bit (especially on “White” and “Blue”), there are about three triumphant moments for every dull one…and in most people’s books, a seventy-five percent “hit” rate is worthy of celebration and/or recognition. Some of the best tracks come along when The Dear Hunter are completely out of their element, such as the folksy, borderline-country ditty ‘The Canopy’, the sunny pop tune ‘She’s Always Singing’, and ‘Misplaced Devotion’ - a track that evokes memories of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida
. That doesn’t mean that the band never goes back to their bread and butter, though. “Violet” in particular sees The Dear Hunter return to their element, crafting overtly theatrical, heavily orchestrated songs with giant choruses and even bigger hooks. ‘Lillian’ and ‘Look Away’ may be the best evidence we have that The Dear Hunter haven’t lost their classic sound, and for devoted followers, that Act IV
will continue along the highly anticipated path set by its predecessors.
In addition to the album’s overall accessibility and high rate of execution, it is also one of the most diverse records you will have heard in the past few years, bordering on the term “genre-defying.” For every mood, every musical taste, and every person
, there is something to like on The Color Spectrum
. There’s the way that “Black” stays rooted in more of a rock n’ roll vein while successfully integrating lush electronic beats and driving basslines; the way that “Red” illustrates passion through blistering riffs and the inclusion of Andy Hull (of Manchester Orchestra) on guest vocals; the way that “Yellow” is so unexpectedly delightful while pushing The Dear Hunter’s pop boundaries…in fact, “Yellow” may be the most immediately gratifying of the EPs (if not the best outright) simply because the band pushes such an unlikely “pop” direction and still manages to flourish. Each color brings something new to the table, and even if the music and colors don’t seem to correspond in any noticeable way, they still serve as an effective means for separating The Dear Hunter’s methods of experimentation. “Indigo” may be the most electronic-oriented piece, as songs like ‘Progress’ seem capable of blazing an entirely new frontier for the band. As unlikely as it is that The Dear Hunter will go all dubstep on us in the near future, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of these characteristics – which currently only stand as experiments – leak over into future projects and become a permanent aspect of their sound. “Orange” is probably the least distinguishable of the EPs, as it sounds very similar to the styles surrounding “Red”, but it still offers us one of The Color Spectrum
’s catchiest hits in ‘But There’s Wolves"’ - a track that thrives off of Crescenzo’s emotional vocal performance and a strong guitar solo during the final minute and a half. To make a long story short, The Color Spectrum
is an album that can be enjoyed by a wide range of musical audiences, not just The Dear Hunter diehards.
In the end, The Color Spectrum
is an impressively consistent and shockingly varied album from a band that is likely gain a whole new level of respect as a result. It takes your ears and your mind to destinations that you never thought The Dear Hunter was capable of going before. It rocks out with songs like ‘Filth and Squalor.’ It brightens your day (‘A Sua Voz’). It puts you on the quiet hills of the countryside (‘Crow and Cackle’), and then takes you out to the hottest night club in town (‘Therma’). The Color Spectrum
may not be perfectly executed from a conceptual perspective, but you have to hand it to The Dear Hunter for trying because they end up making one hell
of a rock album in the process. In fact, The Color Spectrum
may be most appreciated when listened to as nothing more than that; or perhaps when observed as nine individual EPs instead of one cohesive work. Either way, it is difficult to find flaws damning enough to consider this anything other than one of 2011’s premier releases in alternative rock. It is simply too grand - too overwhelmingly impressive in its scope – not to be enjoyed by fans of all genres. The Dear Hunter present to us their crowning achievement to date; enjoy it.