It’s impressive to see The Dear Hunter put this much heart and soul into the proceedings.
The guys in The Dear Hunter are a bunch of nerds, as all progressive-rock groups are of course. The internal mythology, off-the-wall concepts, sprawling stories and the fandom around them, all are made by dorks. And The Dear Hunter isn’t just aware of this, but quite happy about the whole situation. Since day one, The Dear Hunter has mostly been based around the Act series, meant to be a six-part album whose fifth part came out last year and clocked in at nearly 80-mintues. And in the mean time they made a nine-part EP collection based around synesthesia, the condition which connects colors to sounds. So really, even when they’re taking a break, they’re still geeking out and putting massive amounts of energy into what should be a blow-off project.
So, it’s fascinating to see All Is As All Should Be actually serve as a rest for the band. This is a real break. A 22-minute long EP that mostly serves as a tribute to the band’s fans. “Our goal would be to invite our friends—fans of the band—into the creative process… to be a conduit for their hearts and minds,” said ringleader Casey Crescenzo in the lead up to the album. And he means it. All Should Be was recorded, partially, in fan’s houses, giving the album a bit of a scrappier, warmer feeling than their previous full-lengths. That’s not to say the album doesn’t hold up on to the litany of usual The Dear Hunter tricks. Off-the-wall organ solos, silvery, slippery guitars and scream-along choruses are all in full force.
That last one might be Crescenzo’s best trick. His tenor has a naturally anthemic quality to it. He’s also the producer here, sliding sneaky harmonies into the nooks and crannies of the sound. Progressive-rock doesn’t always have the best track record with sing-alongs; when you’re singing about the periphery of Saturn’s rings spinning through the cosmos, it’s easy to get tongue-twisted. That’s not a problem for The Dear Hunter. Hell, the bouncy beat of “Shake Me (Awake)” is about halfway to a show tune number, it even has Crescenzo singing “honey, honey” between verses. Someone get Dick Van Dyke, he’d be all over this.
Though The Dear Hunter always leaned experimental, All Should Be still proves to be a bit of a testing ground. The aforementioned “Shake Me (Awake)” really starts with the preceding track “Beyond the Pale.” It’s one of the group’s starkest tracks, mostly relying on simple, strummed guitar and a few voices poking at the edges. Until the end, when a chorus arrives and the song slams into “Shake Me (Awake)” it’s barely there at all.
But with the relaxed setting, it’s easier to see that we’ve heard some of these tricks before. The wimped-out hardcore of “Blame Paradise” might fall in and out of key, but if you’ve listened to enough Haken, you know this woozy tactic all too well. And the song doesn’t have much to add outside of that. Similarly, “Shake Me (Awake)” is newish for The Dear Hunter, but can fall into trite territory as a result of its overly sunny feel.
Still, with a low-stakes EP it’s impressive to see The Dear Hunter put this much heart and soul into the proceedings. The title track and “The Right Wrong” both hold precisely catchy choruses and would have easily made it onto full-lengths for the band. Most other groups would hold onto those nuggets carefully. But The Dear Hunter, reveling in wonderful nerdiness, want to share it with their fan family.