The Dear Hunter – Migrant

written by: April 26, 2013
Album-Art-for-Migrant-by-The-Dear-Hunter Release Date: April 2, 2013


The Dear Hunter formed in the early half of the 2000s in Providence, Rhode Island. It was initially a side project of Casey Crescenzo (originally of The Receiving End of Sirens), but quickly grew into a primary focus. The band’s first three albums were written with a story in mind, involving the birth, life, and death of a boy called “The Dear Hunter.”

While the band has seen many members throughout its decade-long career, the current lineup consists solely of Casey Crescenzo and his brother, Nick. Their newest album, Migrant, is the band’s first attempt at releasing an album without a concept. The resulting work fluctuates between raw honesty and overcompensation.

The opener, “Bring You Down,” enters with a dense string chord, then relaxes into a slow piano ballad. Crescenzo’s vocals are quiet and reflective: “He took me by surprise/a stranger in my eager eyes.” The chorus is a medley of horns, drums, and the   lyrics, “Don’t let me bring you down!” The song ends with a trembling piano line. It’s a well constructed opener, reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens and Mumford & Sons.

Track two, “Whisper,” is a driven, determined tune. The drums are more present, heavy on the kick and snare. The vocals are at the forefront once again, delicate during the verses and powerful at the chorus as Crescenzo sings, “I think we’ve all made our greatest mistakes, and it’s time to let go.”

“Whisper” is a good follow up to the opener, fluctuating between folk and rock. The lyrics are well written and imbued with honesty. However, the first four tracks of the album are so similar as to be nearly indistinguishable.

The album finally explores new sounds and textures at track seven, “Girl.” The guitars are angsty, the drums crunchy. The exuberant, speaker-filling harmonies are traded in for more vulnerable and solitary vocals. The guitar breaks are sexy and smooth, and work well to shift attention from the vocals. “Girl” stands out as something special on an album with a predictable formula.

With its exposed songwriting,  “This Vicious Place” is anther stand out track. The piano is light and contemplative and the drums are passive and relaxed, meant to keep time and not take the spotlight. The lyrics are mournful: “I would give it all away for one last chance to speak to you, lover,”  Crescenzo sings. The song ends with a guitar solo that shifts key every other bar, making this one of the strongest tracks on the album.

The closer, “Don’t Look Back,” is another lyric-centered track. Drowned out guitars wail in the background as the piano line dances above them. There’s a nice key change at the chorus, giving the track a hopeful edge. Crescenzo sings, “She was only doing what she thought was best.” The song fades out with the lyrics, “Don’t look back, don’t look back.” It’s a dark, mysterious, and moving closer.

The Dear Hunter’s Migrant is a well-constructed album. It creates a full sound with a limited number of instruments. The music and lyrics are honest and straightforward, making this a powerful piece of work.

However, the songwriting is predictable, redundant, and eventually loses its edge. As a result, the music comes off as overly dramatic at times, layering vocals and guitars and violins in hopes of creating something that isn’t there. The album is at its best when it’s most simple, when there is one vocal line, one piano line, and a few violin flourishes.

At its core, this music is meant to be vulnerable, and it accomplishes this goal only when it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

The Dear Hunter – Migrant tracklist:

  1. “Bring You Down”
  2. “Whisper”
  3. “Shame”
  4. “An Escape”
  5. “Shouting at the Rain”
  6. “The Kiss of Life”
  7. “Girl”
  8. “Cycles”
  9. “Sweet Naivete”
  10. “Let Go”
  11. “This Vicious Place”
  12. “Don’t Look Back”