This Dark Star Comes Home

In a few short hours, I was going to board a plane that would take me first to New York and then to Senegal, where I would live for six weeks, but all I could do was keep refreshing Myspace. It was early in the summer of 2007 and technically I was a student majoring in anthropological archaeology but most of my mental capacity was focused not on potsherds and field notes but rather on the music of bands like The Receiving End of Sirens and The Dear Hunter, as well as on the songs and stories that they inspired me to write.

When Casey Crescenzo left TREOS in 2006, I was heartbroken but found a silver lining in the fact that I’d now be getting music from both TREOS and Casey’s solo act, The Dear Hunter. TDH’s first proper release was little more than a sampling—a (relatively) short album that outlined the premise of the prog-baroque-pop-fusion sound that would become TDH’s trademark over the next decade. When the band’s mammoth second release, Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading, was announced, I was beside myself with anticipation.

And then I booked my trip to Senegal, where I’d be doing archaeological fieldwork (i.e. digging a hole in the ground with a dental pick) for a month and a half. Act II was set to be released two weeks after I left and the thought of having to wait to hear it until I returned was killing me. Sure, I had already preordered the album so I knew I could listen as soon as I got home, but at a time when not only music in general but this music specifically was at the heart of my life, the thought of having to wait an extra month to hear Act II was agonizing.

So I did what any self-respecting scene-kid would do in 2007: I took to Myspace. In what had to be an incredibly annoying message to receive, I wrote a DM to The Dear Hunter explaining my plight, that I was a massive fan, that I had already paid for the record, that the thought of missing it for a month would break me, and so could they please please please please find it in their hearts to help a superfan out and send me the tracks early? To my immediate shock and everlasting gratitude, Casey responded. “Sure, man,” he said. “I’ll send you the files.” And he did. And it was glorious.

In those hours before I left on what remains the most absurd of my life’s journeys, I wrote back to Casey to thank him, praising him for his generosity and the album for its excellence. And then I asked what the deal was with those few tracks that had weird, shorthand titles and sounded nothing like TDH. “Oh, sorry,” he said. “Those are demo tracks for a band I’m recording.” Starstruck, I didn’t think to ask who that band might be.

Here’s a secret about the internet in 2007: It sucked. So when I came back from Senegal, I regularly searched for this mystery band only to find nothing. Eventually, in 2009, my target surfaced: Falling Up, a Christian rock band whose latest album, Fangs!, had been recorded and produced by Casey Crescenzo. In an effort to satisfy the debt that I felt I still owed to Casey, I picked up a copy of Fangs! and, while his production is great, the album isn’t really my thing. It’s a concept album about, I don’t know, the kind of sci-fi shit concept albums always seem to be about.

I tried my best to love Fangs! but it never really clicked for me, except for “The Sidewinder Flux,” which is soft and ethereal and incredibly melodic. That song put hooks deep in my brain. I still listen to it regularly. And every time I do, I think first about the entrancing melody/harmony combo of its chorus, then about this entire story I’ve just laid out for you, and then about how many other songs that I would love must be out there in the world, only I haven’t yet lived through the weird circumstances that would lead me to them. There must be so, so very many. And, even though it’s bittersweet, I like that thought.

This post originally appeared in The Queue: A Songs & Stories Newsletter. You can read it there with its many footnotes.

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