The balance between vulnerability and aggression is a difficult one to strike, as real a combination as it can be. Pouring your heart out without being weak about it is, at times, counterintuitive, in life and in songwriting. Manchester Orchestra have always mastered this, though, and their upcoming album this year is easily one of my most anticipated. But “Mean Everything to Nothing” has always been my favorite in their catalog. I don’t overplay it, not like I used to anyway, so it feels like a little secret, rediscovering something satisfying and suitable every time I listen.

I love how heavy it feels without losing fine threads of melody, feeling syncopated and demanding while making full use of tension. Sweeping full band crescendos, moments of quiet contrast, and dark, dark chords paint a backdrop for some of the harshest, biting poetry Andy Hull ever dreamed up….I love his scenes and assertions and questions, how physical and visceral they are. Mostly what I love about this album, especially the latter half, is how it sits so steady on the borderline of insanity, capturing and embracing and exploring that feeling of completely losing it, offering a semblance of surety and a center among the chaos.

“Definitely not the things that I’m seeing

Did I think I see so instantly?
I found a note in my grandfather’s coat
When I read it out loud I got cold
It said I’m not complaining
Yeah I was just saying,
‘I’m a man, I’m a lost one you see’
Come down with me to a place,
we’ll get clean and we’ll meet with them eventually
You mean everything
I don’t know much
But a crutch is a crutch
If it’s holding you from moving on

I don’t know what to do
Not anymore, not anymore
I don’t know what to do
Not anymore, not anymore
And you, well you mean everything
You mean everything to nothing
You mean everything to nobody,
You mean everything to nothing
You mean everything, to nobody but me.”

~Everything to Nothing
Manchester Orchestra, Mean Everything to Nothing