Love it or hate it, the Dear Hunter's Act II: The Meaning of, And All Things Regarding, Ms. Leading is certainly a grandiose project filled with ambition. The two act, isolation-themed rock opera is filled with intricate instrumentation and bipolar change-ups that recall Mr. Bungle's California or Mars Volta's De-Loused in the Comatorium with aspects of Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise. The production is phenomenal, and the multi-layered songs feature unexpected dynamic changes, with parts dropping in and out with ease like a camera cutting from one scene to another. Soundscapes change drastically several times within a single number, turning from a guitar-based prog rock blazer to gritty Dixieland, then switching over to a cello and harp concerto. "Smiling Swine" flips nimbly between a Queens of the Stone Age fill to a peppy Spoon bit and then into a symphonic reverberated Beach Boys bridge. It's a dizzying experience, and enough to hold the attention of even the most hyperactive mind, even when the songs reach nine-and-a-half minutes long. However, the downside is that it might take some time to get past the vocals, which sometimes feel forced and whiney with a nasally pop-punk tinge in the vain of Fall Out Boy. Worse yet, the lyrical content is sometimes sappy and reads like it came directly from the pages of an emo teen's journal ("Darkness, hesitation, I fell into her arms/Breathe in, this is amazing/Breathe out, this is amazing/She removed her clothes and all of the world shined.") Luckily, with the scope of the symphonic and dramatic backdrop, the words feel deeper and more meaningful or are often easily ignored. Jam-packed with musical ideas and mood shifts, this disc becomes increasingly rewarding after repeated listens and should especially appeal to aspiring producers and musicians.
AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover