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Music / The Dear Hunter

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The Dear Hunter circa Act III: Life and Death

The Dear Hunter is a diverse musical project formed in 2005, not to be confused with indie band Deerhunter or the homophonous film The Deer Hunter. The band's lineup has changed many times since its formation, but at its core are Casey Crescenzo (lead singer/multi-instrumentalist/producer/songwriter) and his brother, Nicholas Crescenzo (drums/percussion/backing vocals).

The band's Pun-based Title is derived from the tale told throughout the band's discography. To paraphrase, the story is basically about a boy who grows up in complete innocence out in the country with his loving mother.

Things go downhill from there.

The bulk of the band's chronology is the boy's experiences as he is forced to come into contact with the real world, which quickly proves itself to be unforgiving and corrupt.

In the story's canon are the albums Act I: The Lake South, the River North (2006), Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading (2007), Act III: Life and Death (2009), Act IV: Rebirth and Reprise (2015), and Act V: Hymns with the Devil in Confessional (2016).


The band has also released several extended plays which are a departure from the story, most notably The Color Spectrum (2011), a series of concept albums, four songs apiece, which chronicle the 7 colors of the color spectrum along with black and white (9 extended plays and 36 songs in total).

Tropes by Album

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  • Anachronism Stew: Zig-zagged across the Acts, mostly in musical terms. The story itself spans an alternate version of the turn of the 20th century, but the music is a little bit of everything while retaining a pop-rock foundation. In tracks that deal directly with the Pimp/Priest, there's a steady progression from New Orleans jazz ("The Pimp and the Priest", Act I) to a sort of cabaret/vaudeville feel ("The Bitter Suite II: Through the Dime", Act II) to big band ("The Bitter Suite V: The Sermon in the Silt", Act IV) to a fusion of boogie-woogie and Buddy Holly with an extra helping of menace ("The Revival", Act V), but that doesn't quite match the timeline of the series. Many of the segues from Act III, parallel in time with WWI, used sound effects and a barbershop quartet to evoke the setting, but these were offset by the overall modernity of the tracks on that album.
  • Anti-Hero: The best possible interpretation of the Boy. Crescenzo himself says the Boy is "not a hero at all. I do not think he does a single good thing or smart thing in any of the stories."
  • Arc Words: "The flame is gone but the fire remains."
  • Badass Beard: Casey Crescenzo sports quite an impressive one.
  • Berserk Button: Don't ask Casey to play "Camera." He will hurt you.
  • Concept Album: So far, all their albums except Migrant.
  • Corrupt Church: A Priest who is also a Pimp, and who later diversifies into unapologetic, charismatic prosperity gospel? Over four out of the five main albums? Yep.
  • Epic Rocking: Part and parcel of being a Progressive Rock band. "The Lake and the River" (9:30) and "A Night on the Town" (9:00) are probably their longest songs.
  • Fading into the Next Song: About half the song transitions, if not more, as we might expect from a band that makes this many concept albums.
  • Generational Saga: As of Act V, we have been introduced to three generations of the Boy's family: Ms. Terri, the Boy's Mother; the Boy himself; and the Boy's son.
  • It Runs in the Family: Casey's brother, father, mother, and sister have all contributed to his albums.
  • Recurring Riff: Many musical themes recur throughout the albums.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: One of the hallmarks of Casey's compositional style.
  • Start My Own: Casey started the band after leaving The Receiving End Of Sirens.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: Casey has a habit of clarifying the plot of each story album... a few years after it is released.

    Act I: The Lake South, the River North 

    Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading 

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "Vital Vessel Vindicates".
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Ms. Leading. Did she actually care for the Boy or was he her escape?
  • A Tragedyof Impulsiveness: Basically, the entire plot of the concept albums depends on the Boy making bad decisions due to his moral compass being taken apart piece by piece, usually as a reaction to some part of his innocence being taken away. It all starts from the moment he cannot accept dating a prostitute, and just gets worse.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Blood of the Rose" has a section in Spanish which translates to: "Blood, blood of a rose / Continue in peace without the past / Pray, pray for her soul / She will die in the baptism of the fire."
  • Break the Cutie: And how!
  • Break Up Song: "Dear Ms. Leading". Also a Dear John song since the lyrics are framed as being excerpts from letters that the Boy is sending to Ms. Leading.
  • Broken Record: "One life for another one life for another one life for another one life for another one life for another one life for another one life for another one life for another" ad infinitum ("The Procession").
  • Crapsack World: What did you expect?
  • Crush Filter: "The Bitter Suite I: Meeting Ms. Leading". The piano arpeggiation, the backing vocals, and especially the use of the low cello create an almost hallucinogenic atmosphere for Ms. Leading and the Boy's first meeting.
  • Dramatic Irony: When the Boy meets Ms. Leading and enters the Dime, he does not know his own history.
    • Though the illustrated book of Act II implies that he knew, so this could be up to the listener's interpretation.
  • Epic Rocking: "The Lake and the River", at nine-and-a-half minutes.
  • Grief Song: "The Procession" is the Boy's reaction to the sudden death of his mother and his decision to leave for the City: He proceeds to the road beyond the home he learned to call his own.
  • Intercourse with You: The basis of "The Bitter Suite III: Embrace".
  • Last Note Nightmare: After five-and-a-half minutes of cheery sentimentality, the orchestra in "Vital Vessel Vindicates" suddenly goes crazy, then cuts out completely, leaving the listener with just the haunting piano part from "The Lake South" and the sounds of a harbor fading in.
  • Love at First Sight: The protagonist feels this for Ms. Leading. He doesn't know she's just a prostitute and doesn't really love him.
  • Mad Oracle: The oracles from "The Oracles on the Delphi Express", of course. The Dear Hunter doesn't listen to them.
  • Meaningful Name: "Ms. Leading".
  • Musicalis Interruptus: The transition from "Evicted" to "Blood of the Rose".
  • Triumphant Reprise: "Vital Vessel Vindicates" contains lyrical and melodical reprisal from "The Bitter Suite III: Embrace", "The Pimp and the Priest", "Battesimo del Fuoco", and "The Lake South".
  • Virginity Makes You Stupid: How else could the Boy have missed all the signs that Ms. Leading was a prostitute?
  • Unexplained Recovery: "Let's just say she is better off somehow / Let's just say she has never been happier than she is now" ("Black Sandy Beaches").
    • Might actually be a case of her emotionally shutting down, as the sadness of losing someone who genuinely cared about her still beat her current life.
    Act III: Life and Death 

  • Animated Music Video: "What It Means to Be Alone" has one.
  • I Banged Your Mom: "He Said He Had a Story" is pretty much the protagonist overhearing his soon-to-be-revealed Father recounting how the Dear Hunter was presumably conceived. The manner in which he tells his story doesn't exactly evoke the listener's sympathy.
  • I Warned You: In the opening track "Writing on a Wall", the oracles from Act II reprimand the protagonist for not taking ear to their prophecy.
  • Incoming: The opening of "Mustard Gas".
  • Long Lost Sibling: "Saved" is about the Dear Hunter discovering his half-brother on the battlefield.
  • Matter of Life and Death
  • Mood Whiplash: The transition from the upbeat "Go Get Your Gun" to the melancholy "Son" can be pretty jarring.
  • Moral Event Horizon: When the Boy decides to kill his father and take his half-brother's identity. Though the Boy had already hardened quite a bit, this leaves no other path for him.
  • Protest Song: "Mustard Gas", on the topic of war: "Scream at the sky and beg, beg for a reason he would allow this / Look to the sky and say we would be better off without this / Who would allow this?"
  • Revenge: The Dear Hunter kills his father with poison acquired from the Poison Woman.
  • Robbing the Dead: The Thief, and later the Boy himself.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: "The Tank" certainly paints an unflattering picture of the protagonist.
  • "Somewhere" Song: "This Beautiful Life".
  • War Is Hell: Whatever misfortunes the Boy had before, they were not helped by the stresses of war and more family drama. Previously mentioned song "Mustard Gas" and the cynical musings in "In Cauda Venenum" also count as this.

    The Color Spectrum 

    Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise 
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The album title, and a few track titles ("The Sermon in the Silt"). The opening track takes the cake though, with lines such as, "A sinister sleight resounds, from the fountainhead found with fortune aligned."
  • Dead Person Impersonation: The main stress on the Boy's psyche, and the Priest uses to blackmail him at the end of this Act.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: "Rebirth", as the orchestral section leads directly into "The Old Haunt".
  • Foreshadowing: The segue between "King of Swords (Reversed)" and "If All Goes Well" becomes a full song in Act V.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: In which a lying, murdering public figure tries to combat another lying, murdering public figure.
  • "I Am Great!" Song: "King of Swords (Reversed)"
  • Intercourse with You: We know that the Boy has found the Lover by the end of "A Night on the Town", and we know that they have entered a relationship by the beginning of "The Squeaky Wheel", which will produce a child in Act V. Given all of that, we can only assume that the guitar solo in "Is There Anybody Here?" actually means, other than being a Moment of Awesome.
  • Last Note Nightmare: The album closer does not resolve either musically or narratively.
  • Love Nostalgia Song: "Waves", though the nostalgia is dampened by a heavy dose of angst.
  • Marriage of Convenience: The Boy's relationship to his half-brother's fiance.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Boy leveraging his war history and talent for deception to win public office, among other things.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Perhaps a slow-burning example, but "If All Goes Well" and "The Line" seem to point towards the Boy finding a way to win against the Priest and fully inhabit his new identity. Then the Priest lets on that he knew who the Boy was the whole time.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: It's a great thing the Boy now has all this power to shape policy and policing... right?
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: "The Congregation", though the instrumentation includes winds and brass as well. Bonus points for being about a corrupted minister.
  • Patter Song: "Sermon in the Silt", though slower than usual for the trope. Verses like "If it's a savin' that you're cravin' and your confidence is fadin', be calm, the doctor's in!"
  • Sequel Song: "The Squeaky Wheel" acts as a musical sequel to "Smiling Swine" from Act II, and the Bitter Suite gets a continuation on this album.

    Act V: Hymns with the Devil in Confessional 
  • Album Title Drop: The lyric "I'm singin' hymns with the Devil in Confessional" from "Cascade".
  • Always Gets His Man: Establishing characterization from "Mr. Usher On His Way To Town", in a villainous way.
  • Angry Mob Song: "The March"
  • Being Good Sucks: Trying to atone for murder, impersonation, corruption, multiple spurned lovers, spitefulness, and much more leaves the Boy in existential panic for much of the album.
  • Book-Ends: Act I begins with a pregnant Ms. Terri burning down the Dime and jumping into the river to escape the Priest and his angry mob. Act V ends with the Boy jumping into the river after burning down the Church and the Dime and being chased by an angry mob.
  • Chekhov's Gun: From Act I, "The Inquiry of Ms. Terri", 'reprise, two times, the Dime, burn it to the ground'.
    • Similarly, the knife that Ms. Terri gives Hunter in Act I being used to kill the Priest in Act V.
  • Counterpoint Duet: "The Haves Have Naught", played straight.
  • Creepy Jazz Music: The interlude in "The Revival", though it's more like lounge music.
  • Dark Reprise: Keeping with the theme of the story, there are several examples.
    • The opening track, "Regress", contains both a musical and lyrical reference to "What It Means To Be Alone" from Act III (also referenced in Act IV).
    • "The March" lifts the chorus from "The Old Haunt" in Act IV as it's bridge, with altered lyrics.
      • "The Most Cursed of Hands" gets a reprise in "The March" as well.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: The first few tracks on the album imply this.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Most of the Boy's life, especially Acts IV and V. But a twofold example for the Pimp and the Priest when he kills Ms. Leading with the intent to break the Boy's spirit. The Boy, with Ms. Leading dead and his son safe, becomes The Unfettered and burns down the Dime. When the Priest raises an angry mob and confronts the Boy, threatening to have the mob kill him, the Boy kills the Priest instead. Somewhat subverted, since Mr. Usher suggested the idea to the Priest, knowing what would happen.
  • I'll Kill You!: "So for you, I AM A KILLER!"
  • Living a Double Life: On multiple levels. The Boy's partnership with The Priest while maintaining his public persona], [[spoiler: the Boy's use of his half-brother's identity, and the Boy's visions of his younger self (the "Phantom" or "Apparition").
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Boy, Mr. Usher, and the Priest.
  • Mood Whiplash: "The Revival" uses the recurring inner monologue music from "The Most Cursed of Hands/Who Am I" as the bridge. Tumbling, dissonant piano and guitars enhance the effect.
  • Morality Ballad: "The Most Cursed of Hands/Who Am I?"
  • Nothing Left to Do but Die: "A Beginning" has strong shades of this.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Sets a tone of dread for "Blood", the track where the house of cards around The Boy finally falls.
  • Revenge: The Boy gets this for both the attack on his mother and the murder of Ms. Leading when he kills The Priest.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Cascade", featuring such paranoid hallucinations as 1,000 eyes burning holes into the Boy and drawing chalk outlines of his own body. Word of God says the "The Moon/Awake" and "Gloria" are also this, as it is an opium hallucination.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Mr. Usher, implied in his introductory track by the line: "always feed the hand that leads to teeth that bite."
  • The Unfettered: The Boy, when he discovers Ms. Leading's body in the Church.
  • Villain Song: Two! "Mr. Usher On His Way To Town" and "The Revival".
  • Villainous Advice Song: "The Flame (Is Gone)", in which Mr. Usher convinces The Priest to kill Ms. Leading.


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