Release Date: Jul 28, 2017
Record label: Loma Vista
and I, felt love.... again Circa 2010 or so, "I've Got Friends" is playing on a shitty YouTube rip through my shitty laptop speakers in my room. These are the pre-Spotify days when YouTube is regarded as a kind of acceptable way to find new music, and Manchester Orchestra pop up probably as a related video from a Dear Hunter song or something. But the details aren't important: see, I'm not shallow like the other kids, no, I'm a real deep teenager so I'm all about the feeling, man - the way "I've Got Friends" skewers its kind of cheesy, kind of sickly pop sensibilities into something a little darker and a little nastier, always underpinned by that $2 keyboard twinkle.
Georgia's Manchester Orchestra deliver one of their most balanced and mature efforts with their fifth full-length album, 2017's measured A Black Mile to the Surface. Technically, the album is a follow-up to the group's 2014 return to electric guitar-based hardcore, Cope, and companion piece Hope, which featured acoustic reworkings of songs from Cope. That said, A Black Mile to the Surface also follows on the heels of lead singer Andy Hull and keyboardist Robert McDowell's much lauded and experimental soundtrack to the 2016 dark comedy-drama Swiss Army Man.
Manchester Orchestra reach new heights on fifth album A Black Mile to the Surface, a powerful, cinematic experience that goes above and beyond what the Atlanta-based band have done before. The group follows up the loud, grimy and grungy Cope with a far more pensive and picturesque endeavour that builds more on their third record, 2011's Simple Math, as well as Cope's acoustic twin sister, Hope -- but taken to extraordinary new places. With songs that are crisp, emotive and hymn-like, Black Mile can prompt admiring comparisons to Band of Horses and My Morning Jacket; it's also probably the closest thing to the little-known yet incredible Clean Head by Oceana, an EP that never got the proper followup it deserved.
It's just as well then that while A Black Mile to the Surface certainly feels like one of the band's most expansive, and ultimately uplifting, records, it still harbours the undercurrent of darkness and unease that's an inherent part of Manchester Orchestra . And with tracks like "The Sunshine" blossoming with an understated optimism, the record's afforded an emotional balance unseen on previous albums, suggesting a further evolution for a band who refuse to rest on their laurels. Such is their inability to settle in to a groove, that A Black Mile to the Surface is the product of the band's writing and recording process being turned completely on its head, purposefully pushing themselves to second guess each decision in a bid to create "an album in a 'non-Manchester' way".
ROCKS LIKE: Fleet Foxes, My Morning Jacket, Band Of Horses WHAT'S DIFFERENT: Where to start? A Black Mile To The Surface sounds more like the logical follow-up to 2011's complex Simple Math than it does 2014's nonetheless great, grungy Cope. Here, Manchester Orchestra forge a newly lush, cinematic sound, unraveling detailed tales of characters with abstractly personal references. Layers upon layers, from acoustic guitars to programmed beats, create a gorgeous and restrained, immersive landscape, culminating in beautifully serene moments like "The Alien" and "The Sunshine." WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Manchester Orchestra are no strangers to reinvention, but this is a bold step.
When Manchester Orchestra first appeared, they were weary beyond their years. Arriving at I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child via a MySpace clickhole, I was struck by how, just a little younger than me, they could convey such weight and power. Andy Hull spoke of rage and depression, curling words into a sneer that suggested he was just about done with everything.
Manchester Orchestra are back with another spellbinding album. Manchester Orchestra have never stuck to one formula, so it's no surprise that this fifth 'proper' full-length once again expands and evolves their range. Full of textured, wide-screen soundscapes – no doubt inspired by frontman Andy Hull and guitar / keyboard player Robert McDowell creating the Swiss Army Man movie soundtrack – the record dips its feet in electronic waters, yet retains the emotional vulnerability that has always defined the Atlanta band. There's an extra dose of sinister unease, too, especially on 'Lead, SD' and 'The Moth'. It's another unexpected twist in the band's intriguing and always heartfelt narrative.
A strange thing happened to Manchester Orchestra in the past few years: They became human. The band, led by millennial wunderkind Andy Hull, had been on a rise as meteoric as they come to upstart emo bands. The group landed a major label deal, the cover of Alternative Press and the fandom of Jesse Lacey, whose band, Brand New, took Manchester out repeatedly, gifting them a fanbase as rabid as any in rock and roll.
With A Black Mile to the Surface, Manchester Orchestra comes almost frustratingly close to delivering the second complete masterpiece album of their career, but the places where it falls short of that distinction are important ones that leave the album further away than previous efforts since Mean Everything To Nothing. However, that does not mean the Atlanta band's fifth album is not an effort worthy of maintaining their status as one of the best Rock bands, not to mention frontman Andy Hull as one of the most singular and impressive creative voices in the game today. Nowhere is this more evident than on the album's second track, 'The Gold,' which is among the band's most remarkably beautiful efforts to date and belongs in the discussion of Hull's finest work.
Across their four albums, Manchester Orchestra have travelled from emo darlings to crunchy rock stalwarts. Last album ‘COPE’ was a powerhouse that saw the band at their most straight-forward and riff-heavy. Its follow-up, ‘A Black Mile To The Surface’, is infinitely more fiddly, and takes the band closer to the indie rock of The National or The Shins than the Brand New they grew up alongside.
M anchester Orchestra's latest album, 2014's Cope, pulsed with angst and searing grunge and emo rock. Now, frontman Andy Hull, 30 years old and a first-time father, has found his pained inspiration muted by the pram in the hall. After a brief sojourn scoring weirdo indie film Swiss Army Man, the group from Atlanta, Georgia, returned to their original project, determined to fuse this newly acquired cinematic scope to their trademark turbo-emotion.
Manchester Orchestra records are quite the experience. In fact, almost everything frontman Andy Hull sets his mind to ends up being just that. He, along with lead guitarist Robert McDowell, ventured into new territory last year by doing the music for the Swiss Army Man movie from the Daniels (who did the band's videos for the older "Simple Math" and here, "The Alien") and they've certainly brought a cinematic flair and atmospheric sound to their new record, A Black Mile to the Surface.