Circus Fires- All Living Things
Record Label: Self-Released
Release Date: August 10, 2013
It seems as though I've been drifting away from music like this. It's true, 2012 and 2013 have had me completely submerged in a sea of punkity-pop-punk in the vein of The Wonder Years, Title Fight, and Citizen (or pretty much anything on Run For Cover or No Sleep, for that matter). While that wasn't a bad thing by any means, it made my first listen of Circus Fires' debut hit that much harder. Throughout a collection of consistent indie crescendos and slow-burners, two things immediately became apparent: 1) This is one hell of a debut album, and 2) These guys should absolutely blow up upon this release.
"No One Likes a Morbid Bastard" kicks off All Living Things with a slow, distinguished guitar-line and the words "Used to feel like/a movie where you thought/you knew where it would end." The songs builds itself up, vocals straining over the words "Always feeling lonely when you're never alone" until the song drops back into the way it introduced itself, leading into the faster-paced "Shelter". It's an epic note that sets the tone for most of what you're about to hear next.
Circus Fires brings a unique combination of creativity and musicianship that I can only really liken to Mancherster Orchestra circa- I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child. However, that comparison mainly grows stronger due to the amount of sheer talent tapped into on the bands' first full-lengths. "Shelter" shows off the quicker, more energetic side of the band with fantastic guitar work and pristine vocals that highlight tracks to come throughout All Living Things. "A Gentleman's Curse" does a fine job of combining the aformentioned elements, leaving room for harmonies and darker territory and brooding bass. It's not easy to pinpoint standouts on records this consistent, which is why it's tough to mention exactly where you'll be hooked listening to All LivingThings.
"These Synapses Fire Blanks" is a catchy affair, starting with chugging guitars that begin to climb after the first verse and a solo (complete with hand-claps!) that bursts into the fantastic, drop-everything bridge of "This town is a high school reunion six years before its time/and I don't want to be looking into disapproving eyes/Every day, these cretins learn one more thing I have done/And every day these cretins learn one more way to ruin my fun." What comes next almost feels like an upbeat intermission of sorts, with "Submission" providing an break to catch your breath over softer guitar-lines and harmonics while "Pull Oceans" continues this vibe overtop darker Explosions in the Sky-esque instrumentation and excellent work behind the kit. A distant, gang-vocal-laiden bridge seems to separate and breathe life into the second half of the track until its fiery conclusion.
"Earthbound" finds the second half of the record at one of its mellowest points, blending falsetto harmonies and the sounds of a space shuttle lift-off. "Hey, have you ever had one of those days/Where everything goes perfectly, and perfect's not your place" may be the lyrical focal point of All Living Things, felt most during the storm of instrumentation heard in "Spent Bullets", eventually carrying into the beautiful-yet-aggressive "A Bloody Ransom For a New Life". The song's rolling bass leads into Circus Fires' strongest chorus, anchored by the line "You could learn a thing or two from me/because I've learned to lose and still be free".
While the cohesive flow throughout songs proves to be Circus Fires' strong point, it can just as easily act as their biggest weakness. A lack of variety throughout the second half record tends to leave the songs bleeding into each other seamlessly, a common issue amongst debuts that can hopefully be an easy fix come LP2. You're left with the feeling that you've just heard a great record, but for some reason, can't remember any of the specific points where it became such a great album. The best solution to this confusion is to stick with the album, picking apart you favorite moments from listen to listen.
Coming to a conclusion with "III. Ship Captain", the band leaves you with humble guitar that paves the way for full-band fun. It feels like a perfect example as to why All Living Things should stick a landing with the indie community. Circus Fires succeed in releasing one of the best albums to appear out of the blue this year. Should they take off, here's to wishing them luck with the success that should follow All Living Things and continuing to release music that may easily surpasses some of their peers.