During a very long, very bitter winter in my junior year of high school, with my newly minted driver’s license tucked inside my wallet, I found myself spending vast quantities of time piloting my mother’s Subaru over icy roads and listening to Circa Survive’s first full-length album, Juturna. Since Christmas was over, it seemed like the perfect soundtrack to the bleak season at hand — erie and ethereal, full of songs in minor keys. The piercing, androgynous voice of lead singer Anthony Green was unforgettable. I listened to the whole album countless times, never skipping a track.
For those who know what they want from a Circa Survive album, it’s all here in Violent Waves — abstract titles that seem to have little to do with the song’s lyrics (“Birth of the Economic Hit Man”), guitar lines cutting through the sky, and some killer drumming courtesy of longtime band member Steve Clifford. Green sings with his usual disillusioned conviction, imparting his words upon the listener as though they are the gospel truth.
Since Juturna and the band’s two follow-up albums, Green has released several acoustic solo albums that seem to be the playful little sisters of the songs he records with Circa Survive. Their presence is felt on Violent Waves in yearning songs like “Suitcase” where Green pleads, “Will you take me with you when you go?”
Tracks like “Brother Song” feel fresher, while staying true to the kind of spacey, prog-rock experimentation that Circa Survive have managed to meld seamlessly with alternative and — for lack of a better word — emo, perhaps only by virtue of Green’s voice. “Everybody wants to see the worst in you,” he sings, “shadowed by the actions of the path you can’t undo.”
Loss is a theme that’s never far from Circa Survive’s music, and it’s just as present on Violent Waves. This is the band’s first self-produced, self-released album, and the extent to which it improves and builds on their previous material is a testament to how much these guys have their shit together — producers and record labels be damned. While Violent Waves is just as suitable for a cold winter’s day as its younger brother Juturna, there are also a few songs that might be a nice soundtrack to the first thaw of the year.
Essential tracks: “Birth Of The Economic Hit Man”, “Brother Song”