There are a few moments when you're listening to The Format's "Dog Problems" where the lyrics make you think, "God, going through that must have been so painful to inspire that line" or "yep, I know how that feels." That was the last album that lyrically made me ache. I think there are moments on "Simple Math" that rival that feeling.
This took a few listens before I knew what I wanted to write. They're one of my favorite bands and I was madly in love with their last release. There is a lot going on in this one. More dynamic than their last. More exploratory and definitely a few risks. If the first single really is the title track, it is going to really shock a lot of people. It's not like "I've Got Friends" at all. This is a weird description, but with all the extra orchestration in the songs I get almost a Modest Mouse meets Fun. vibe. All the best albums take some time to really hit you ... this is not one where a "first impression" can do it justice. I think I need more time to really form my opinion. Not as instantly accessible as METN, but I see this being very high on my lists at the end of the year.
... post it in your away messages, status updates, facebook blogs, anything you can think of. Thank you very much -- it will be a big help in making sure we get these kinda cool features/exclusives in the future as well as spreading the word about this fantastic band!
Figured I'd toss this up here early for my blog reading fans, it's the most current edit/draft. It's missing a paragraph and a half discussing the middle of the album.
Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything to Nothing
Release Date: April 21st, 2009
Record Label: Favorite Gentlemen
Quick note to the rest of the albums coming out this year: The bar has just been set.
Over the years there have been a select group of artists that have become so well respected within our community that they have reached almost hallowed ground. Their recordings are considered by some as the pinnacle achievement of what our little music scene can create. These bands top many “all time favorite” lists – and even years later their influence and replayablity dominate the eardrums. I’d like to present to you the next candidate for admission: Manchester Orchestra.
I’m sorry to everyone that thought they’d be able to keep this band a secret for just a little bit longer, because after listening to their new release, Mean Everything to Nothing, it is undeniable that this band is poised to have an astonishing year. While the rest of the music listening population may be hyped on dance-pop or hipster-whisper-acoustic, Manchester Orchestra have crafted an album that reminds us of the full blown power of rock music. An album that pounds your chest with each drum kick and rattles your brain with each swooping guitar line and melody. Channeling Brand New, the album is just accessible enough to draw in new converts – yet remain slightly enigmatic for the so called music enthusiast.
The album works best as a cohesive whole; each track fitting into the bigger picture. This allows the reprises to stand out and the band’s unique attributes to shine. The melodic guitar tones perfectly compliment lead singer Andy Hull’s hypnotic vocals and the band expands upon their previous work in a variety of ways. They toy with the listener by interweaving soft whispers and full blown snarl within the same track. The dichotomy works perfectly to entwine the listener’s attention amid the instruments, vocals, and lyrics. This level of well crafted intentionality showcases a band at the top of their game hell-bent on crafting a thematic experience between the headphones.
Your experience begins with “The Only One” – and as the first lines spill into the airwaves it’s hard to not be immediately captivated by the story unfolding before our ears. The track flirts with a mid-tempo pop sound while delivering some of my favorite lyrics from the album. I almost immediately smile at the lead singer’s revelation that he is “the only son of a pastor to do the things I do.” At roughly two and a half minutes the opening track is one of the shortest on the album, with most tracks walking the line between four and five minutes. The second track, “Shake it Out,” pushes this five minute mark – and is undoubtedly one of the biggest rock songs the band has written. It’s hard to not draw comparisons to Foo Fighters or recent Brand New as the guitar, bass, and drums playfully prove that instruments can be as emotionally charged as any vocal. I think it’s safe to say at this point Andy Hull has reached a level lyrically few others ever do; however, it’s the delivery of key lines that proves how you say it can be just as important as what you say. As Andy begins to scream … it’s impossible to not start inching the volume upward; hoping to capture the emotion within each swell.
The first single, “I’ve Got Friends,” moves fluidly between soft verses and one of the biggest hooks I’ve heard this year. The inevitability of this song’s anthem status is barely debatable – I find it tough to believe this won’t be one of the staples of their live shows for years to come. The layered chorus demands you sing along and is the perfect conduit to highlight the album’s top-drawer production: crisp sounds that allow the artist room to breathe without ever feeling heavy handed.
Each track brings its own new experience. From the heavy and brooding epic of “Pride” to the seemingly quick two minute “100 Dollars” – the band is capable of a variety of sounds that maintain a level of consistency rarely seen. The vocal delivery remains a highpoint and each track brings a level of familiarity to the table without ever feeling routine. If I were to pick a weak spot on the album, I want to say “My Friends Marcus” – however, the inclusion of a repeated line (found elsewhere on the album), as well as the inevitable fall after the emotional juggernaut that is “I Can Feel a Hot One,” makes it much more difficult. The album comes full circle as it ends with just as much force as it began. “Everything to Nothing” and “The River” seem to play off each other to form an ambitious lyrical journey of confusion and search for redemption -- a feast that leads one craving another bite.
Between the crashing sounds, the subtle whispers, the vocal chants, and the emotional reaction – we have the makings of a classic. We have an album that clearly bridges the gap between mainstream and underground. If everyone else in the world wants to listen to neon-pop or hipster-dance music … that’s fine … I can turn the volume up loud enough to drown you out.
I was listening to my Manchester Orchestra discography today (yeah, big surprise) and after listening to ILAVLAC, I was thinking that the album felt longer than the new one. However, after checking the times ... it looks like I was wrong (43.7 minutes versus 51.2 minutes with the secret track but not including the dead silence). I didn't expect that. Not sure why ... but one just feels longer. Strange.
After listening to them back to back it's really hard to pick my favorite. Both are great in their own way. The new one definitely has a more "rock" feel to it though. Easily moved this band into my top 20 of all time though ... the end of "The River" absolutely slays me. It's one of those "yep, I can relate/that's it" moments/songs for me. That's what it takes. That's music for you. It should move you. Not just entertain.
I've decided I'm going to come out of album review retirement to review the new Manchester Orchestra album. Basically - I stopped reviewing albums a while back because I was annoyed with the reactions they would bring. Sometimes it would mean kids would start shit talking the band because I liked it. Plenty of times it would mean that the album became instantly "overhyped" because I liked it. And other times it just caused stupid people to shit talk my taste. Basically, it was more trouble than it was worth. Which is why I started posting my musical thoughts here in my blog instead of writing actual reviews. However, this is the kind of album I feel I need to do something big for. This is the kind of game changing album I want to be involved with at every level. I feel like I need to shout to the high-heavens about this band ... and I feel like all the other bullshit is worth it. I mean, where else can I call something the album of the decade?
I'm obviously not going to post it until there's a release date and album cover ... however, I've started writing it already. It's been a while but my hyperbolic symbologies (I know) have come back to me. I want to make sure I have something ready in case the album leaks. (God, I hope it doesn't leak too early - I hope every copy in the world is watermarked. The band doesn't deserve to have kids overplay this before they can buy it. It's coming out on a small label, it has the potential to be genre defining, and the band deserves to see the fruits of their labor.)
Rough-Draft Sneak Peek:
Over the years there have been a select group of artists that have become so well respected within our community that they have reached almost hallowed ground. Their recordings are considered by some as the pinnacle achievement of what our little music scene can create. The bands top many “all time favorites” lists – and even years later their influence and replayablity dominate the eardrums. I’d like to present to you the next candidate for admission: Manchester Orchestra.
I'll be coming back to edit/proof read the full thing in a few days. I find I write better if I just stream my thoughts first - then go back and fine tune.
My recommendation of the day is the only band/album I have played in the past 24 hours: Manchester Orchestra. This is the first band in a while I think could reach the upper ranks of AP.net bands ... hallowed ground previously held by Brand New, Say Anything, and Thrice. I think this could be the next member of the exclusive club and this the album to get them there. Of course, now I worry that people are going hate the album simply because it's "hyped" -- but that's their loss. And they're probably the same pretentious douchebags in thrift store drag, so that doesn't bug me much.