Circa Survive make waves with indie debut

While it’s interesting that some artists choose to record albums free of record label influence, it’s downright impressive to hear no discernible quality difference between that album and the next corporately funded album. But that’s only part of what makes Circa Survive’s latest release, Violent Waves, so breathtaking.

From the very outset of the album–the bookending seven-plus minute tracks and everything in between–this is Circa Survive at their finest. While the album is distinct from previous entries in the band’s catalogue, it has imbibed much of what made its predecessors great. From ethereal guitar tones to cymbal-heavy percussion, the album evokes the unearthly vibe of Circa’s 2007 release, On Letting Go. Then again, it’s catchy enough to have been on 2010’s Blue Sky Noise (considered by some to be the band’s only mainstream-oriented, if stellar, release). Violent Waves strikes a delicate balance between emulation and evolution, to great effect; fans of Circa will find a lot to love here, but it’s hard to lump it with the rest of the band’s discography.

Lead vocalist Anthony Green’s performance again impresses, reaching high into the vocal stratosphere, followed closely by his extremely talented band mates. “Sharp Practice” and “Suitcase”, almost audible opposites, both exhibit the intense musical prowess and adaptability upon which the group has built its reputation. On that note, instrumentation in general takes a turn for the experimental, maybe even the progressive; chord progressions and rhythms don’t necessarily go where you’d expect, but that doesn’t make you want them any less; the lack of a formulaic songwriting process allows the uniqueness and individuality of the group shine through. Clearly, this is not background music. Between the subtle nuances of the band’s style and cryptic lyrics, active listening is a prerequisite of Violent Waves. Each track commands the rapt attention of both sides of the brain. It’s deliberate, it’s intricate–the music itself wants to be heard.

Circa Survive have been a staple of alternative rock for almost a decade. Each release breathes new life into their music, their band, and the genre at large. While they continue to set the bar for modern musicianship, Violent Waves is undoubtedly their best release yet.

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