Thursday, April 3, 2014

Manchester Orchestra Gives Up Cope

Manchester Orchestra
Andy Hull is back with his indie rock band from Atlanta. He brings along 13 tracks along with him, all of which possess restless tempos, sincere lyrics and effortless harmonies. Some of it will almost convince you that he has grown too comfortable with self-reflection.

No, Cope isn't as heady as previous outings but the topics are as bleak as ever. Most of them focus on getting over hardships and coming out on the other side of something. It's about being lost among the metaphors until you find yourself again. Hopefully you'll do it on your own terms.

The title track itself says it all. Cope is about coping with consequence. There is a cost, Hull sings with the wisdom of someone who knows, of living out some dream other than the one you ought to have been content with. He hopes it won't be but knows he could be living sad and lonely for the rest of it.

“Cope, to me, means getting by. It means letting go, and being OK with being OK,” says Andy Hull. “You can cope in a positive way when bad things happen or a negative way, and that blend was a big lyrical theme for me on this album.”

Cope is bigger than expectations. The song was written during one of the earliest sessions as the band began to work on the album. According Hull, they had taken to writing and demoing a new song every day and this was the song that charted the course for all of it.

The concept is big in that Hull stumbled across his tell-all lyric that if there is one thing he learns to let go, it is the way that we cope. What he means, succinctly enough, is that we don't have to cope with anything once we've let something go and moved past it.

As the follow up to Simple Math, Cope connects as a progression. In the previous album, Hull had borrowed both real and imagined pains as relationships hit an impasse. This one finds him wiser, wanting to let go of all those heartbreaks and bad memories.

Still, Manchester Orchestra doesn't let go of the darkness that surrounds any of it. As some people have noted, the band has gotten progressively darker over the years as Hull and company tackle new material. Opener Top Notch grabs onto that heaviness with thunderous roars and terse harmonics.

But that is not to say that everything is dark. Choose You has a triumphant radio-friendly quality about it. It feels almost joyful, an early break from crunched guitars, hammered drums, and pinched lyrics that want power more than purpose. It's about sticking with something after you discover it.

At the same time, it feels much more like a band album too, with contributions from guitarist Robert McDowell, keyboard-percussionist Chris Freeman, bassist Andy Freeman, and drummer Tim Very all contributing something to the composition. It's not that they never have before, but it just feels more we-centric in their decision make something brutally honest. Everyone makes a statement.

Cope is also an accessible album in that it's easy to listen to front to back. However, if you are only looking for the choicest tracks, gravitate to the elegant evenness of Girl Harbor with its soaring chorus, the addictive massiveness of Every Stone, and the unexpected strength of Trees. Along with those, Indentions is possibly the softest track on the album and See It Again is a great story teller.

The album also ends with two high notes. Never Really Been Another Way Out rolls out with an impossibly full sound. After The Scripture is a show closer, with nothing much more than Hull's vocals to keep your attention.

Cope By Manchester Orchestra Adds Up 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Cope isn't as haunting as Simple Math, but it's a much starker rock-reliant album. It also hints at how far Hull has come from being a 17-year-old kid writing down a few notes and lyrics in his bedroom. If anything is striking about Manchester Orchestra, it's how Hull has invited everyone to grow up with him.

Cope by Manchester Orchestra can be found on Amazon. You can also download the full album from iTunes or purchase Cope by Manchester Orchestra from Barnes & Noble. The band started touring yesterday this month in South Carolina and Georgia. Their upcoming shows in the United Kingdom are mostly sold out. They will be back in the United States on April 17.
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