The “woke” among us tend to wax philosophic on time being an illusion—that it’s merely a social construct. Yet, our daily lives are ruled by ticking clocks. We set alarms to wake up; we leave our homes so that we can make it to work on time; we know the exact amount of seconds that our ramen noodles should be in the microwave. This isn’t exactly something that we can just snap ourselves out of. Time is the tool we use to measure the lengths of our lives.
If I were to ask you where you see yourself in five years, could you say? How about ten? Do you remember what you were doing around this time a decade ago? Ten years is a long time. People can change entirely in that duration. Our tastes, styles, habits—these things are all malleable. We live in a continuous state of flux. It’s the things that remain constant which stick in our brains the most.
Ten years ago—then fresh out of the Receiving End Of Sirens—Casey Crescenzo released the first album under his brand new project, the Dear Hunter (causing us to tirelessly repeat, “Not to be confused with Deerhunter, the band or the movie”). Upon its release, the record flew mostly under everyone’s radar. As time—or the illusion thereof—went by, the band started to gain the notoriety and momentum that has now brought them to be the powerhouse that we’ve come to know them as. Today, we take a look back at the album that started it all, the first Act in their colorful, storybook career.
Act I: The Lake South, The River North set the stage for what we’ve come to know and love as the rich, conceptual story of The Boy, The City, and its enigmatic Pimp and The Priest.
Beginning with the brooding a capella opener, “Battesimo del Fuoco,” which sweeps its harmonies across like curtains drawing towards the wings, Act I paces itself with near perfect, sonic storytelling. The instrumental themes presented in “The Lake South” prove integral as a repeated reprise in later albums. Patient horns plod beneath a worrisome, anticipation-laden aria.
Each track leads seamlessly into the next: The chaotic landscape of “City Escape” into the thoughtful reflection of “The Inquiry Of Miss Terri”; the bright timbres of “1878” followed by the malicious mischief of “The Pimp And The Priest,” until finally bringing it all to a close with the contemplative “His Hands Matched His Tongue” and the light piano finale, “The River North.”
We hear so many of these lyrics and melodies in different contexts throughout the succeeding installments of the band’s Act series. Within the Dear Hunter’s most recent release, Act V: Hymns With The Devil In Confessional, themes from “The Inquiry Of Miss Terri” and “The Pimp And The Priest” can both be heard multiple times among the symphonic layers, as well as reprises from the Acts in between. The thematic consistencies are just another facet of this massive sound. The reprises act as a time machine, bringing us back to the moment we first heard them and the context therein. Almost like fan-tailored Easter eggs in a popular film, they create as much fun as they do wonder and emphasis.
In a recent interview with Substream Editor In Chief Brian Leak, Crescenzo spoke at length about the band’s past and future. With having the fifth installment in the Act saga just released and being two weeks into a massive tour, he remains as cryptic yet optimistic as ever about closing out this epic era and moving forward in its wake.
Considering whether or not Act I would be as impressive if released today is difficult because it would mean ten years of work and more than one hundred songs written and released would be reset as well. Setting that aside, this album would undoubtedly still be a breath of fresh air today. It would still be utterly unique, and nuanced, and its own entity, separate from all the rest.
In the end, time catches up with us all. We can either fight it, scratching tooth and nail, awkwardly trying to dress like a younger generation and trying too hard to be next month’s version of “hip” six months too late, or we can embrace time and let it guide us and our creations through life like thread trailing after a needle, trudging along the grooves of our favorite records.
The Dear Hunter’s ‘Act I: The Lake South, The River North’ was released on this day in 2006.