When you have similar music tastes as your friends and they’ve all raved about a band, you’d assume there’s something to them. That’s where I found myself with Circa Survive. I’m notorious for discovering music much later than one should – I didn’t give Blink 182 a listen until I was 18, and it took me until last year to fall absolutely in love with Brand New. My personal tastes have taken a lean to the pop/pop-rock/pop-punk styles lately, and Circa Survive is a name you often hear in the same breath. So now that I’m getting around to listening to them, you’d think it’d be a match made in heaven, wouldn’t you?
This band has skirted me for years. I remember grabbing this CD from a pile in my buddy’s car a few years ago and putting it on, but not really paying attention. It seems whenever I run into someone who’s versed in modern rock music, Circa Survive is one of the first names to roll off their tongue. I had a bit of an expectation coming into the review, but I didn’t expect it to be the definition of Post-Hardcore. Juturna’s sound encompasses the chaos and general loudness you’d expect from a punk band, but played to a slower time. All of the intensity remains, and the slower tempos allow for a more expressive sound. It’s interesting. A little reminiscent of Alexisonfire’s earlier albums.
But with better production than Alexisonfire’s earlier albums. Juturna is definitely a loud, full sounding album. This wasn’t a rag-tag deal. The guitarists in Circa Survive don’t shy away from delays and reverbs that can really wash out the sound. I always like hearing a bass guitar that makes a practical impact on the music, and you hear it on songs like The Great Golden Baby. Anthony Green’s distinctive intense-yet-pillowy voice is never hidden behind any other element. The one unforgivable spot on this album is the drum triggering. Almost every kick and snare on the album is the same. Steve Clifford is an incredible player, but it would have been nice to hear the true dynamics of his playing shine through. I’ve heard much worse (at least the fills have feel) but it’s a shame of a production choice.
My first impression of Juturna remains after subsequent listens: the songs sound too similar. When you write 11 songs that only resonate in 1 or 2 musical keys and are all within a few BPM of each other, it’s difficult to get a sense of separation and differentiation. This could have been easily remedied by using different guitars and amps during recording, or as I mentioned, not triggering (replacing drum hits with samples) all of the drums on the album. It’s too in-your-face without any breaks – definitely a byproduct of the mastering Loudness War. This works for some bands, but Circa writes dynamic songs. When your entire album plays at one volume and intensity, your quiet songs don’t seem as soft, and your loud songs lack punch.
I keep asking myself “Are the drums overplaying?” and as I’m listening to Oh Hello, I can’t deny it. As a producer, I’d tell the band members to stop focusing on their individual performances and instead focus on the song as a whole. Even vocally. I have a strong feeling that the music was written first, and Anthony Green was left to write melodies that fit the songs. Again, not always a bad thing. When you have a singer with an extended range and great control, it opens the horizons of where you can go as a band. The music fits the lyrics well. You’ll get your fill of angst, heartbreak, and the results of a tormented soul with Juturna.
“Now you are free to leave.
This heart is already frozen,
I can’t remember the fall.
And if I last through the winter,
I swear to you now, I won’t call.”
Juturna isn’t all bad. When the formula works, it works well. Maybe I haven’t fallen in line with it yet. The songs aren’t cookie cutter. Not all all. But from every song you can expect: lots (lots) of drumming, a distant sustained guitar offset by a more active part played simultaneously, and vocals that rise from a whisper to a scream. And a lot of angst. You really have to try this album out. I like it, but it’s just not varied enough to have much consistent longevity in my library. I understand the appeal, and if it clicks, you’ll absolutely eat this album up. I’ll be listening to Circa Survive’s second album on my own to hear their progression and maturity. Juturna is a good idea, but I’d like to hear another.