With an Effortless Smile, Circa Survive’s ‘On Letting Go’ Turns 10

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When a band creates a near-perfect record, do you think they’re aware of it at the time? As they put the finishing touches on the tracks, do they get pins and needles at the thought that this music could end up being timeless? Do they look at the artwork with the foresight that this might become one of the most popular band tattoos in the genre’s history? With one of the strongest sophomore releases in a world where the “second album slump” is a familiar pattern, Circa Survive took a strong debut and out-did themselves, solidifying their sonic presence eternally. 

It’s actually ironic that one of the myriad of stand-out lyrics within On Letting Go is “accomplishments are transient,” because the staying power of this band has proven that wrong time and again. The fact that they’ve been a continuous presence in our hearts and in our ears has been a constant source of inspiration to so many, and, after ten years of an album with an infinite replay value, we remain as grateful as ever. Today, we celebrate ten whole years of one of the genre’s most important and instantly recognizable staples.

A huge error would be made in saying that Circa only made it where they are because of Anthony Green’s status in the scene. While he is a massively prominent frontman, the band itself has a unique sound that has shaped the genre in many ways. So much so that they’ve become one of those bands that startups put as their “for fans of” or “sounds like” artists and listeners immediately have an idea of what to expect. On Letting Go was a major stepping stone in giving them that distinction.

To this day, no one has been able to match the ethereal tones of Colin Frangicetto’s and Brendan Ekstrom’s guitars on this album. They’re an integral part of giving it the atmosphere that it’s carried, flawlessly, for the past decade. From the expert use of delay and reverb to the pure amount of body in their mixes, they stand out from the tastefully explosive opening of “Living Together,” to the spaced-out ambience closing out the record with the resigned ending of “Your Friends Are Gone.” This is in no way a dig at the bass and drums on the record, as they bring everything together in perfect accompaniment. This is a release where every moving piece is important. If one were removed, it would suffer greatly from it.

As for Green’s vocal performance, you’d be hard pressed to keep this one out of a top five list. They’re as memorable as they are strong and moving. With enigmatic lyrics, such as “Dance with me, for I’ll be leaving soon,” or “Purchase your tickets: I’m kicking your crosses down,” the album unfolds a tale of Green bitterly falling from a faith that he now scorns. “See how clean the water is where you are. Wash off your handcuffs and know, the hidden messages you hear, they aren’t real. You tricked your mind to feel.” A controversial topic that gives even more evidence to how strong this album is and how much it means to the fans.

It stays in our dreams, half-human, half-machine.