By Sam Rosenberg

Dispatch, who broke up in 2002, has returned with their first full-length album in more than 10 years. Best known for blending folk, reggae, and jam rock themes, they have presented a new version of themselves, while still showing tribute and gratitude to the style that made them so popular. Last year’s release of Dispatch EP was a taste of what’s to come and Brad Corrigan, Chad Urmston, and Pete Francis did not disappoint with Circles Around the Sun. The extremely polished album shows a more mature version of the band. They did not disappoint.

Title track “Circles Around the Sun” came out strong and punchy, similar to a battle cry. The mutli-instrument tune, complete with texturizing claps in the background and passionate string harmonies hooks a listener immediately. The band eagerly experiments with distortion guitar tracks like “No Messin” and “Sign of the Times”. “Not Messin” is wonderfully menacing, with a dark and repetitive guitar riff permeating the tune. The distortion mixed with the powerful vocals is an eerie blend of old-school Dispatch with a brand new style.

Being famous for their studio albums as much as their live performances, predictions of what songs would sound best in front of a live audience began to emerge. “Josaphine” has the potential to gently rock in a live setting. It shines with melancholy, a style loved by veteran Dispatch fans. This will be the love song fans sing back to the band. “We Hold a Gun” has an exciting vocal effect during the chorus while sporting righteously themed lyrics. Dispatch has the skill and potential to jam this song heavily on stage.

The album starts to weaken a bit with “Come to Me”. With so many other songs boasting guitar distortion, soft melodic vocals, and multi-layered acoustic instrumentation, this song does not penetrate the ears the same way the first half of the album does. Circles’ pace in the middle of the album never hits as hard as the first half but the slow songs at the end are top notch. “Never or Now” is sweet and simple; it is lyrically beautiful and natural. “Feels So Good” closes the album with a warm and relaxed mood. Being about the birth of Pete Francis’ son Charlie, it tells a story of how becoming a father changes your life and perspective on things. The simple repetitive chorus “It feels so good now” stays on the mind as a twangy guitar leads us home. The final minute of the tune is Francis repeating the chorus in a raw radio-like environment. It did feel so good.

There is a clear reason why this band saw so much success in the past with previous hard-hitting singles like “Bang Bang” and “The General”. They possess an ability to show a vulnerable side through guitar and vocal melodies without being over-the-top. As a whole, Circles Around the Sun is produced well and will woo some new fans. With a lot less reggae influence, they have doubled down on the folk and Americana and added a splash of tribal drumming. These tracks will mix well with their current catalog during their upcoming tour.

Purchase the album for $6.99 on iTunes here.