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Stephen's "Worth Listening To" blog

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TheGazzardian View Drop Down
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    Posted: November 18 2011 at 10:42
In this blog, I will discuss artists who are deemed by software I use to be "worth listening to". Of course, that software is nothing more complex than iTunes and the LastFM Scrobbler. I have a few artists who are about to cross the 1000 threshold and a couple who just did, so I figured I would talk about those artists here. They will be mostly prog but some other stuff may slip through the cracks.

(For reference: my last fm)

The Dear Hunter (at this time: 1033 plays on last fm)

The first time I heard the Dear Hunter was during the short period of time after I had just discovered prog and fallen so head over heels in love with it, I was pretty much a stereotypical prog snob. This was even though the only bands I really knew in prog were Yes, Gentle Giant, and Genesis. My brother and I were hanging out at a bus stop and I was talking about these bands and showing him some stuff, so he showed me some Tool and Dear Hunter in exchange. (Well not a prog-head, there's always been a number of prog-rock bands he's liked.)


I believe the song he showed me was "Life and Death" off of Act 3. I liked it enough that, when I got home, I bought it off of iTunes and another track from Act II. (Back then, I would buy individual tracks if I could before buying albums, to ensure I would enjoy the album.) 

Some research revealed that The Dear Hunter weren't just a band with cool songs, but actually a band working their way through a six album concept, following their protagonist (The Dear Hunter) through the adventures of his life until his death. (I also found out that, at that time,Casey Crescenzo, the band leader had the intention of recording a 9-album set about colours. I remember chuckling to myself that he couldn't do anything in small doses.)

It wasn't long before I owned Act III. It came pretty nicely packaged for a CD - a digipack with, instead of a booklet, a bunch of postcards, one for each song with a picture on the front and lyrics on the back. I'd listened to the album many times before I properly listened while following the lyrics, and the tale somewhat blew my mind, even though I missed some of the details and didn't find them out until, I believe, I read Tanner (The Truth)'s review of the album.

(To sum it up, because he was disappointed in his first love experience, the Dear Hunter went to war, where he got separated from his troupe and then almost killed in another battle before he was rescued by another soldier, who it turns out was his half-brother. It also turned out their father was their captain. After his brother gets killed in yet another encounter and the captain shows no sorrow, the Dear hunter kills the captain, then desserts to go meet his brothers mother with the intention of, I suppose, becoming a surrogate son to her).

As it stands, Act III still has the most plays by The Dear Hunter in my last fm, being responsible for 448 scrobbles.

I really was entranced by the music this band was putting out, which was very theatrical for a rock band, and was very much carried by Casey's intense vocals. They are really unlike most of what else is out there in prog, partially because Casey's prior band was some sort of core band. So he brings that influence into prog. Tracks like Mustard Gas and The Tank really demonstrate how this style really adds a lot of intensity to the music.


It would be a year before I would hear any new Dear Hunter though; various other discoveries, other bands, other genres of prog, etc. would push the Dear Hunter to the back of my mind until my next birthday, where my brother bought me their first two albums. This was just a month before I got married, and I remember, at my stag party, playing Act I while we all played poker. (I don't think anyone at the stag liked the music but me. But it was my stag so I didn't care.) I liked Act I, but it didn't really move me as much as Act III, so I never actually moved on to Act II for some time. The sound of Act I was a bit more cabaret-like than Act III, probably because it follows the life of the Dear Hunter growing up with his mother, Ms. Terri, who was a whore. Honestly, I've followed the lyrics, and I'm still not 100% sure what the plot of this album is. I get sense of scenes and scenarios but not the connections between them.


Earlier this year, Casey announced that in the two years that had passed since Act III was released, the Dear Hunter had recorded the entire Colour Spectrum and it was coming out as a box set of 9 EPs on vinyl. I couldn't believe it, I figured that we would never see this because it was simply too ambitious and their main project would take precedence. But nope - they'd already done it! It was to be a set of 9 EPs.

My first reaction was to finally listen to Act II. The story of this one follows The Dear Hunter as, in the wake of his mothers death, he goes to her brothel house to learn more about her. There he meets Ms. Information, a whore, whom he falls in love with. But jealousy soon kicks in and he and her have a very acrimonious breakup (and honestly I think it's mostly one sided - he fell in love with her but was just a client to her is how I interpret it) - which leads to Act III and him going off to war. 

The music in this one surprised me. I didn't think that The Dear Hunter would top Act III, which was part of why I put it off, but here they did. Tracks like The Bitter Suite, Smiling Swine, and Red Hands captured the emotion of the Dear Hunter so well that I was really pulled in, the music was catchy and memorable, and in the end this one ended up surpassing Act III by just a small amount.


At this point in my life I was not very well off, but I scrimped and saved and pretty much my entire music purchase for the month it came out was The Dear Hunter: The Color Spectrum on vinyl with Acts I-III on vinyl as well. Well, as luck would have it, Canada Post went on strike at this time and it took forever to get here. (Tanner probably remembers me complaining about this in the shred, which I had just started visiting around this time. )

It finally arrived, and my brother and his best friend came over and we listened to random discs of it in my new music room. I remember Black, Indigo and Blue making the strongest first impression and Green and Yellow being surprisingly plain on first listen. Over time, I came to enjoy the whole thing, and the variety of flavours that the band was able to try out, such as folk, country, post-rock, and electronic, while still remaining a recognisable sound. It's their most song oriented release to date.

The packaging was also quite gorgeous. Vinyls one major advantage really is the packaging - it came in a large box with 9 10" vinyl discs in 9 different colours inside, each of course matching the colour the music was to represent, and a gorgeous booklet with the lyrics and artwork inside.


36 tracks boosts a lastfm pretty qiuckly, but this still wasn't quite enough to push me over the 1000 mark. I'm bad at actually listening to vinyl because I only have the turntable in my music room, which despite its intent is not where I get to do most of my listening. I listened to the digital album every once in a while, but wished that the band had released the entire spectrum on CD so that I could listen to it anywhere in the house. Well, I guess I wasn't the only one with this wish, because the band did release it on CD, with a bonus DVD, for less than half the price of the vinyl set. (If I knew that was coming, I'm not sure if I would have bought the vinyl, despite how beautiful it is). 

It arrived earlier this week, and my first listen-through yesterday while I was working pushed me from 997 to where I am at now, 1033. It was also the most I've enjoyed the album thus far (I think more because of familiarity than format - also, I listened to it in the middle of a huge classical binge, so it sounded pretty fresh). It really is beautifully packaged as well - The Dear Hunter put a lot of effort into the packaging of their works.



Edited by TheGazzardian - November 18 2011 at 13:33
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote colorofmoney91 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2011 at 11:12
I had a dream last night that included who I thought was Casey from Dear Hunter, but I can't be sure.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheGazzardian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2011 at 13:34
You predicted the coming of this thread

I stole your naming convention btw.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote colorofmoney91 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2011 at 16:38
And you will be hearing from my lawyer.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Truth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 20 2011 at 11:01
But Alan stole mine. Shocked

Great first post btw, I'd check them out if I hadn't already. LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Neck Romancer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 20 2011 at 11:24
The plot thickens
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote colorofmoney91 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 20 2011 at 16:18
I can't resist a thick plot.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheGazzardian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 20 2011 at 18:00
Originally posted by The Truth The Truth wrote:

But Alan stole mine. Shocked

Yours uses your username though I was copying Alan because I used my real name.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote omphaloskepsis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 22 2011 at 14:41
The Dear Hunter will be coming to my neck of the woods in Feb. 2012.   Are they a good live band?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheGazzardian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 22 2011 at 19:35
Sadly, they have not once come near my neck of the woods, nor have they released a live album. Youtube would be your best bet.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote horsewithteeth11 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 28 2011 at 00:04
Originally posted by omphaloskepsis omphaloskepsis wrote:

The Dear Hunter will be coming to my neck of the woods in Feb. 2012.   Are they a good live band?

I saw them back in July on their first headlining tour in a tiny hole in the wall that had no air conditioning. It was brutally hot, but it was easily one of the most entertaining shows I'd ever been to. Before that, I'd only heard them open back in 2010 for Circa Survive and Coheed and Cambria, but of course I wish their setlist could have been longer at the time. LOL

But to answer your question, they absolutely are. You need to go see them if you get the chance.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AtomicCrimsonRush Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 30 2011 at 05:25
Dear Hunter are certainly not well known but that's a great start to the blog.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote omphaloskepsis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 01 2011 at 18:20
Maybe the Dear Hunter will do Dallas Fort Worth.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheGazzardian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 28 2011 at 20:56
Major Parkinson (at time of writing, 1021 plays)
Website (All songs available for streaming in top left corner)

Major Parkinson are in a way a relic of a bygone era, when I used to check every day for new releases on the sidebar of the home page, check samples and buy the album if it interested me. (These days I am too far behind on my wishlist to help it grow in such a way!)

At the time, Major Parkinson was streaming their entire first album on their website, and so the first track I heard was "Bicycle". I think I was about halfway through it by the time I was browsing their website madly for a way to purchase the music ... at that time, it wasn't available at any of the north american distributors I used, other than iTunes, but I wanted the CDs so I got in touch with Lars and he was able to sell me both of their albums. It cost a bit more than it would have had I waited a while for the band to eventually reach our shores (I've since seen their albums on the American amazon page) but I consider it a net gain given the enjoyment I've gotten from the albums.


ANYWAYS, I listened to their second album, Songs From a Solitary Home, for the first time in the week leading up to Christmas. I remember how quickly the music struck me - how the subtle drumbeats and the sweet-sounding guitars of the opening track, Ecophobia,  lead perfectly into the stunning, deep vocal delivery. A very pretty song about loss that has just the right amount of space between the instruments to let your heart fill in the cracks and be taken along for the journey.

This is no way prepared me for the journey that would follow, Major Parkinson are a very multifaceted band - especially on Songs from a Solitary Home - but what ties their music together are the instantly recognisable melodies that will embed themselves in the depth of your mind for months after listening. They are incredibly catchy and most of their tracks are high energy and in your face. There are only a few tracks on Songs From A Solitary Home that could be described as being relatively mellow; the aforementioned opener, the closer, and Card Boxes which is roughly in the middle of the album. The band knows that you need to be eased in at the beginning, catch your breath from all the dancing and headbanging halfway, and then eased back out at the end.

Thus far, by my descriptions, Major Parkinson must sound an awful lot like a pop band (and I personally think that they should be an incredibly successful pop band), but the band has an off kilter, almost avant-garde feel to their music that married with some great chops and varied songwriting they are more than master songsmiths. Their music explores a variety of different sounds, and is deep enough that after many listens there are still little nuggest to discover. 

As an example: my wifes favorite track off of Songs was Dance With the Cookieman, a twisted love song (or something along those lines anyways, I'm still not sure), and after the first line has been sung, the singer changes style and sings in a more high-pitched, semi-raspy voice. What I didn't notice for quite some was that, low in the mix, there was a second voice singing in a very deeply. The song always had a sinister edge, but when I noticed the second voice for the first time (which must have been on my 15th or 16th listen), it sent shivers down my spine.

(Sadly the track is not available on youtube, but you can check it out on the bands website!)

What kept me returning to Solitary Home was that it was one of those albums where, at one point or another, almost every track became a favorite. At first I was returning for Ecophobia, then Dance With the Cookie Man, but then suddenly I was in love with the accordion-lead Heart of Hickory and it's haunting chorus (ooooh, come and get your butcher knife, ooooh, open up my heart and make me happy, oooooh, come and get your butcher knife) or it's mysterious lyrics (It's a habit to be hip, like a donkey with a whip, or an epileptic pantomime). Next time, I couldn't wait until the ragtime-y Downtown Boogie started. And so on...


In the end, Songs From a Solitary Home topped my album of the year list for 2010, and I listened to it pretty consistently for over a month. I remember putting it on to energise me and keep me focussed during game making marathons in my living room with my roommates. Such was my love for the album that I was almost afraid to listen to the bands debut album, Major Parkinson. But finally, sometime in the second half of January when I was finally starting to listen to Songs From a Solitary Home less, I gave the debut its first spin. It didn't take long before I realised that Major Parkinson were far from a one trick pony; and while their debut was less exploratory in terms of styles and sounds than the second, it showed that they had been stellar songwriters from the very beginning. It didn't take long before I was loving the first album as much as the second. I even ended up listening to Songs more again after I started listening to their self titled.

As I implied above, the debut was more straightforward sound wise, making less use of the odd instruments (like accordian) that had been used on the second album and relying more on guitars, so the songs on it don't stand out quite as much as on the Songs. But there is not a bad song on the album, anywhere. Bicycle sounded as good to me when I heard it again as it had the first time on the bands website, over 2 months prior. The thick, chunky bass in Bazooka Mirror made the song heavy and unforgettable. 


Once again, I was falling in love with the album one song at a time, first loving the sleaze of Casanova  (I'm on the front page of a dirty magazine, Mr. January pumping kerosene, can't you see my face, it's a lie?  Close the curtain, flip the switch, make me happy, baby you're a bitch, turn me on, turn me on, tonight. Casanova, do you love her, do you really think that you will find the bit of self esteem to push between her legs and make her happy like you used to do?) and the music that just didn't seem to be able to contain the stream of words, yet the words which flowed perfectly despite the changing meter. And the song, despite it's sleaze, had a nostalgic, sorrowful tone to it as well.

Next, it was Death In The Candy Store, a song about loving our children by spending money on them (Love me, love me, I am just a little boy, give me soda pop and toys), which gets heavy and dark and catchy in the way that Major Parkinson had somehow already perfected with this debut.


For a short while there, I grew obsessed with the song I Am Erica, which has three melodies that could have been a hit song on their own but is paired with an angular, odd flavor of perversion and darkness. The songs strength isn't just in the melodies - if the flow weren't absolutely perfect, I don't think it would have caught my ear the way it did, but the various themes flow into each in a way that maximises the punch of each change. 


Some months later, my roommates had moved out and my pet cat of 17 years passed away. I remember at this time, the song Ecophobia gained new meaning (along with Devin Townsends The Death of Music). As she wasted away and afterwards, the lines:

"I've strolled through night
trying to subside into something that's real
but home is still unfamiliar"

grew deeper in meaning to me and helped me deal with my pain.


Edited by TheGazzardian - December 28 2011 at 21:08
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote avestin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 29 2011 at 10:29
I love Major Parkinson! Incredibly great and catchy songs, I've listened to them a lot lately and I'm playing them to our baby, and having him "dance" to the rhythm (my wife also likes them). 
Great write-up!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Bearded Bard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 22 2012 at 18:05
Checked out these^^ videos of MP, and the ones in the shred. I really liked what I heard. Catchy songs and a lot of fun. Didn't care too much for the vocals, though. Anyway, will listen to their albums on Spotify soon (oh, soon the lightTongue).
 
Btw, great blog, Gazza! Will definitely follow this space in the futureThumbs Up 


Edited by The Bearded Bard - May 22 2012 at 18:05
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