First Impression: The River Empires

by mikeflanagan1

Apparently, this has been floating around for many months. But I, admittedly, have been a bit more out-of-touch with the Casey Crescenzo Dick-Sucking Guild than I used to be (I say that in good fun…I love Casey and owe a great many of my most cherished high school memories to his music with TREOS and The Dear Hunter).

The River Empires is a new band consisting of Casey playing at least twelve different instruments of varying levels of obscurity and handling “choral and symphonic arrangements”. The other members, Jessy Ribordy, Josh Shroy, Erik Roos, Sharaya McDonald, are all credited with similarly extravagant lists of instrumental undertakings. Interestingly, if the three songs posted on the band’s MySpace are any indication, Casey’s vocal contribution is limited to the occasional backup part underneath a pre-chorus or two.

Underneath the list of band members, the MySpace page lists 24 “additional” musicians, vocalists, and ensembles that performed on the record, which, according to the large header, should be available “April Sixth, Two Thousand And Ten.” And, according to an update, the album will consists of 24 tracks. Woof.

Shoving (with all my might) these hints of extreme excessiveness aside, I clicked “play” with an open mind. But, as it turns out, the music was, much like the last Dear Hunter record, a bit over-the-top and cluttered. It’s a shame, because, again, much like the last Dear Hunter record, there were some nice, interesting melodies and song structures beneath the overbearing arrangements and unnecessary instrumentation. Whereas Act III was too theatrical for my taste, the three River Empires songs bring a slightly folkier (I use that term very loosely) feel to the same overdramatic dynamic into which Casey has digressed (or perfected, depending on your opinion of Act III).

I will return to The River Empires, with all that said, and will definitely listen to these songs with an unbiased ear in the context of the full album when it comes out. Despite my opinions of this and Act III, I still think Casey Crescenzo is a musical and conceptual genius, and you’d be hard-pressed to make me lose faith the fact that he is capable of making incredible music.

But, as I understand it, Casey is not even the main force behind this project. So my whole point may be moot. Oh well. Listen for yourself. If nothing else, it’s an impressive undertaking.

EDIT: A message from Casey, from the thread on

“Just to clarify, this isn’t a side project of mine- this is a full time project of Jessy Ribordy that I am involved in. I produced, engineered, and mixed the full length, as well as played and sang on the record, but the songwriting is Jessy and I am really lucky to be a part of it. I just turned in the final mixes to the record so there should be more music on its way.”

…Guess my point is moot.

Also, a few more listens have opened me up to this a bit more. I may or may not end up eating my words. But that’s why it’s called a “First Impression.”