Album: Act 1: The Lake South, The River North by The Dear Hunter
Released: September 26th, 2006
The Dear Hunter was formed in 2005 after Casey Crescenzo was kicked out of his previous band, The Receiving End of Sirens. What was originally a side project while he was in TREOS, The Dear Hunter became Casey’s full-time project and he recorded the first album, Act I: The Lake South, The River North, almost entirely on his own with help from friends and family. Telling the tragic life story of boy a growing up at the end of the 19th century, the band released the first three acts in 2006, 2007, and 2009 before taking a departure with their 2011 release, The Color Spectrum. This collection contained nine four-song EPs; each individual EP corresponded to a color for a total of 36 songs of various genres and moods. The band followed up with another stand-alone release, Migrant, in 2013 before returning to release the fourth and fifth acts in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The Dear Hunter has released seven full-length albums in the eleven years since their first album, continues to tour, and will be releasing a new EP this December titled All is as All Should Be.
**Spoiler Warning – Story Details Ahead**
The Story and the Songs:
The story of The Dear Hunter begins with a prophecy in the form of the a capella song “Battesimo del Fuoco” which foretells the tragedy of Hunter’s life. Intended as a story of six Acts, the first song of the album sets the mysterious, esoteric and tragic tone of the records. It is followed by “The Lake South” which is one of two instrumental tracks with the other being “The River North”; these songs introduce the listener to a couple of the musical motifs that continue in later albums. The somber tone of the first two songs is then shattered by the post-hardcore riffing of “City Escape”. The song details how Hunter’s mother, a prostitute named Miss Terri (get it? Miss Terri? Mis-tery? Mystery?), escaped the horrid brothel of The Dime to try and raise her son in isolated safety; this debuts the driving force that The Dear Hunter does so well by containing a myriad of elements such as bounding percussion, robotic synths, and jarring guitar lines atop a grooving bass line.
“The Inquiry of Miss Terri” is a waltzing tune that contains a catchy refrain of “Reprise! Two times! The Dime! Burn it to the ground!” which again refers to Miss Terri’s escape in the previous song. Crescenzo strains his vocal range here a bit, especially toward the end of the song, but this doesn’t overshadow the power of the track. Making a change of pace figuratively and literally (we’re talking 7/8 time signature here, folks), “1878” is propelled by an acoustic guitar part that is tastefully seasoned with piano and creates a perfect soundscape to signify the passing of years as Hunter grows. “The Pimp and The Priest” introduces the main antagonist of the story, which is a man who fulfills both roles in the nearby City. This track saunters and swaggers with the confidence of a conman by perverting the waltz heard earlier in “The Inquiry of Miss Terri” and molding it to his mercy since she is again in his employ in order to provide for her son. The penultimate “His Hands Matched His Tongue” is the final song with vocals on the album and its melancholy melody speaks to the innocence of Hunter; he is ignorant of his mother’s profession and this song showcases the love between them in addition to foreshadowing the next album.
Being Crescenzo’s first solo work, Act I only contains eight songs, but sets up a strong foundation for the lyrical and musical themes that carry on through; many of the melodies and motifs from this album and its follow-up are heard again in subsequent acts. The songs on Act I evoke the setting of a stage for a masterful production and separates the listener from the story much like an audience watching a play. Showcasing Crescenzo’s musical ability and vision, Act I: The Lake South, The River North is a profound debut for a band that has aged well as its music and sentiments matured.
Please enjoy some song recommendations, a song from the album, and check out the band’s social media accounts below!
Song recommendations: “City Escape” , “1878” , “The Pimp and The Priest”
In 2016, Casey released a graphic novel that details the story in the album. It is currently in its second printing and can be purchased here.