Circa Survive’s debut record hits stores with an undeniable amount of hype behind it. Vocalist Anthony Green is one of the most respected and idolized singers in the scene today. He is of course known for his work in such bands as Saosin, Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer, etc. His latest endeavor comes courtesy of Equal Vision’s Circa Survive, a technical indie rock band with interesting time signatures and melodies. The music itself can be compared to Further Seems Forever, but with a bit more quirk to it. Anthony’s vocals vary from straight forward blasting of melodies (“Act Appalled”) to bizarre rhythms matched with slightly odd musicianship. The album’s opener, “Holding Someone’s Hair Back” is an example of Circa’s weird side. Still, the intentional clash between vocals and offbeats melds together nicely for a solid head-nodding tune. The second track, “Act Appalled,” is easily my favorite on the album. Saosin fans will love this song, as Anthony hits the peaks of his range and strains his voice on the higher notes. Listeners who are unfamiliar with Anthony’s style of singing will be pleasantly surprised at his ability to max out his range and turn each note into a second of raw emotion. The music is basic enough to let the song be driven by Anthony’s voice, which I see as a smart decision.
The album progresses with spacey vocals and technical instrumentation. Transitions are loosely defined and rolling bass lines give each song a lazy feel. “The Glorious Nosebleed” is a solid track, albeit strange. Circa has definitely pegged their sound, and it’s very existential, for lack of a better term. This and other tracks use futuristic effects on many different elements. Wisely, the only thing that is rarely touched as far as effects go is Anthony’s voice. I have to respect Circa Survive for what they do as far as songwriting. The music has a very interesting feel to it; each song redefines the band’s sound. The problem with this is, there are plenty of bands out there who make slightly off-kilter music, and many of them do it better than Circa Survive. If ever there was a band whose sound needed to grow on you, it would be these guys. While the music is certainly nothing basic, it lacks energy and the pace of the album becomes dreadfully slow by the end. The dreamy vocals flow completely separate from the music for whole songs at a time. The band members of Circa Survive just play background music while Anthony does whatever the hell he wants, and it just doesn’t work. While in parts this is awesome, the music desperately needs more concrete sections of unified musicianship and vocals, like in “Act Appalled” and “Oh, Hello.”
I respect Circa Survive and I think they have a ton of talent, but this album is just a lackluster effort from a band that is capable of much more. Despite being disappointing, it’s still a relatively solid album. If you’re into technical indie rock, you might really dig Juturna. Just don’t expect another Saosin, because this is far from it.
Edit: I later fell in love with this record and found the spacey music to be beautiful.