Hope y’all enjoyed part one and my rant on hipsterdom and the effects on generalizations, but without further ado, please allow me to continue. Circa Survive was formed in 2004 after singer Anthony Green left his post as lead singer of the band Saosin. What a great decision he made, because where Saosin lacked in musicianship, Circa Survive hinges upon up creativity and technique in their approach to songwriting and production. Circa released a few EPs and a couple full length records that received mild critical acclaim. The release of Blue Sky Noise (2010) catapulted them as one of the great new bands to rise from the ashes of the Emo and Nü Metal movement of the early 2000’s. I won’t give Circa the disservice of labeling them as an Emo band, but they definitely take more than a few cues from the aesthetics of Emo and then mix it with some Pop qualities and good old fashioned Hard Rock.
If you’ve listened to Circa Survive before the first thing you’ll notice on Violent Waves is they’re drawn out approach to writing this record. The album starts off with a 7:30 epic titled “Birth of the Economic Hit Man.” A social commentary you might say? Maybe, but I’m not one to dwell on song meanings and lyrics because too often there are many correct interpretations. Who’s to say that somebody’s astute analysis of a song is wrong anyways? Our responsibility as the listener is to make our own meanings, and the easier it is to relate to the music then the more we’re going to like it. Anyways, the rest of the album explores this more drawn out approach, as the band seems to pay a little more attention to detail as they get older. Songs like “My Only Friend” and “The Lottery” take the basic song form of verse-chorus-bridge and take it to their own new level. Verses are extended and shortened on a whim and their classic Hard Rock breakdown sections are blistered with time and feel changes. The band’s half-time grooves on this record are to die for and when they switch back to full-time it is never too rhythmically busy. After a few listen throughs the thing I keep coming back to is how effortlessly they switch between these different feels and how often they do it.Violent Waves is what you get when Blue Sky Noise takes a huge bong rip and listens to Tool for a year and a half.
You can’t talk about Circa Survive without spending some time on their singer, Anthony Green. The first month that I had Blue Sky Noise in a steady rotation I thought “wow this band has a nasty chick singer.” After getting into the band a little more I did some research and to my shock (and disappointment) I learned Anthony Green is in fact a man with some unique qualities as a singer. Take Brian Wilson mixed with a carton of Marlboro’s, tattoos, and an Emo haircut and you’ll get Anthony Green. He’s a guy who could easily play the part of Maria in Westside Story (well, maybe not quite). That’s the type of range he has. The beauty of his voice is not just his amazing range, but his style in the way he keeps his voice resonating through his head and nasal passages without sounding “nasally.” He’s got the smoker rasp at times and can scream with the best Metal singers. He really is a diamond in the rough of crap Emo and Indie Rock bands.
Green may be the first thing you notice, but you'll soon discover the intricacies in the guitar playing of Colin Frangicetto and Brendan Ekstrom. They'll end up murdering you with their extensive use of effects and clever jumpy lines. At times these lines border on being Emo cheese, but these moments are fleeting and are usually masked with the creative use of harmonizes and extremely wet delays. They never get too heavy with the distortion, but with a full bass sound from Nick Beard the band creates a big and driving sound. Dont be deceived, these guys definitely have their master degrees in rocking the fuck out.
Like I mentioned earlier in the review, the band has an uncanny ability to fly through feel changes. This feat is achieved by having a strong backbone with drummer Steve Clifford. He never over plays but always gives you enough to effectively move between time and feel changes. His halftimes are effortless and at times trudge along like a clan of foot soldiers. His cymbal work is on point, and with all good drummers he accents the music using his drums as a true instrument. He plays with the band. Unlike most Emo drummers he doesn't single himself out in the music by overplaying. He understands his role in the sound of the band and he executes it perfectly.
All of the pieces of Circa Survive form a finely tuned engine. They can drive fast but can also turn on a dime. Their music is nostalgic but energizing, and they have the ability to show you something new every time you listen to them. As a grader I reserve A’s for the truly groundbreaking and life changing music, so I’ll give Violent Waves a B+. I don’t think it will end up as a seminal work in the realm of Rock music, but I do think it is a motivating effort that will keep the best artists in the genre on their toes. The world is not soon to forget Violent Waves, and like their name suggests, I don’t expect Circa Survive to be going anywhere soon.