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Manchester Orchestra

2/13/15


“It’s OK to cry.”  
But is it only OK if you have permission? Is it more OK if you are alone? What about at a desk, at work, choking them back so notices and it’s like you never really cried at all, is that OK? Is it more OK if the reason is for someone else and maybe, for once, not yourself? Or are they always for you?
Tears are the strangest, most versatile of physical reactions. Sometimes they are happy, more often, they are not. Sometimes they’re hot and salty with fury, sometimes they are thin and wet, cold and numb. Some arrive unannounced and uninvited and interrupt the party. Others are like that old friend you haven’t seen in years, making you feel safe and comforted and at home. You could cry about anything, if you look around enough, or you could cry about nothing, if you were melodramatic enough, but you can also cry about everything and nothing all once, just because the world is bright and ever-changing and you are small and alone, which is nothing as far as the day to day of your reality is concerned, but everything, everything, everything, if you want to find balance in your place in this world, and as scary as it is, there is comfort in that.

“Don’t let them see you cry
When the dam breaks down
And the city’s covered in water
‘Cause I believe we fly
When the moon takes shape
And I dose off, on your shoulders

And the trust you see, it’s you
So breathe while you’re alive
Let the big band play
As you tap leather with your fingers
And I tried to write in style
But the words just come
And I write them as soon as I see them
And I trust that you write them too
And I trust that you love me too.”

~Don’t Let Them See You Cry 
Manchester Orchestra, Mean Everything to Nothing

2/8/14

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

8/1/13

This, along with most songs Andy Hull has ever written, is one of those albums I used to gorge myself on. So I don’t listen to it that much anymore, save certain tracks that are iPod staples. But this one came up on Pandora today and I just appreciated it in a brand new way.

“Don’t let them see you cry
When the dam breaks down and the city is covered in water
Cause I believe we fly
When the moon takes shape and I doze off, on your shoulders

I trust that you see it too

So breathe while you’re alive
Let the big band play as you tap leather with your fingers
And I tried to write in style
But the words just come and I write them as soon as I see them

And I trust that you write them too
And I trust that you love me too

~Don’t Let Them See You Cry 
Manchester Orchestra, I’m Like a Virgin Losing A Child

10/2/12

So dark, so right. The instrumental a little before halfway into this song is stunning, with the same choirlike echo that caps it off again at the end. The desperation is palpable, foreboding. Frighteningly steady. Question loss of faith not lost on me.

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. today, no particular reason other than restlessness. Think I slept too much this weekend, maybe. My body seems to like feeling a little strung out and I have been taking such decent care of myself that I think it could be rebelling. That, or the emotions I’ve swallowed are chewing at me, ulcer-like, from the inside out. I don’t know what’s right anymore, but I do know being up all night alone in bed probably isn’t it. 

“They call holidays an option for a reason,
I heard you’re coming back to life just for the fourth.
I’ve been catching all your ghosts for every season,
I pray to God you won’t come back here anymore.

do you pray with him, too?

They should deliver all my blessings
in small brown paper handbags near the porch.
I wished I’d known that you were bleeding while I sat
and watched you reading with the Lord.

I read with him, too.

When you look at me,
I’ll be digesting your legs.
Cause I can hardly see
what’s in front of me these days
and those days, too.
I’ve got to take what I’m making,
and turn it into something,
I’ve got to take what I’m making,
and turn it into something,
for you…


I’ve got to break what I’m making,
and turn it into nothing,
I’ve got to break what I’m making,
and turn it into nothing,
for you…

God, where have you been?

~Where Have You Been? 
Manchester Orchestra, I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child

12/27/11

My Top 10 Favorite Albums in 2011

I’m hesitant to call this a “best of the year” list, because best is a very subject term. So, here are my favorites:

10)Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
They still got it. No lie. I’ve seen enough live performances from this album to know that NO one can rock a room like the Foos. “Walk” is likely one of the best mainstream rock songs that came out this year, and Dave Grohl & co. continue to make their messages known and connect with society. Even thought “Wasting Light” may not have the staying power of their other catalog titles, the band still sure does.

9)Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
A band we hadn’t heard from in a minute came back with power, with perspective and punch. Take a listen to the title track, or “Apprehension” and you’ll see that Andy Hull pours out his heart like it’s made of cheap vodka. True, that’s the biographical text we’ve come to know and love from this band, but this time around in it’s a new glaze. Emo chords are traded in for darker, twisted sounds, and there’s as much layering as there is stripped-down, laid-bare musings.

8)The Dangerous Summer – War Paint
This band captured my heart early in the year when I discovered “Reach for the Sun,” and when their sophomore “War Paint” came out, the band quickly became the soundtrack to my summer. Loss, redemption, struggle, rinse, repeat. The title track is a rallying call to rise above, “Work in Progress” is a retreat from the world. Album closer “Waves” could make you conquer the world, while reminding your loved ones to do the same.

7)Bon Iver – Bon Iver
It had been too long since “For Emma, Forever Ago” and we needed to hear from Bon Iver again. We did, this fall, and the self-titled album captures a place that feels snowy, warm, effervescent. “Minnesota, WI” is just one example of how production should enhance instrumentation, not bury it, and “Towers” clips along almost like an Old West saloon song, maybe one that mated with binary. I dig the style.

6) The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
I discovered the Welch trio on Pandora around the same time this album came out and holy shit was I blown away. Shoegazey rock? Big guitars? Chick singer? Count me in! Don’t let the radio edit of “Whirring” fool you – these guys know their riffs, they know their layers, and they know how to blow your mind.

5)Ryan Adams – Ashes and Fire
One of my most-anticipated albums of 2011, and it didn’t let me down a drop. Ryan is back with a pillow-soft smile, but the beat-up, broke-down desperation lives on. “Lucky Now” will hopefully be played on Grey’s Anatomy when the second half of this season airs. If I’m lucky. Songs like “Dirty Rain,” “Save Me” and the title track show that Ryan Adams is a master of the ballad formula in its truest sense, and with this album he’s shown us no age, illness, marriage or critique will keep him from developing his talents.

4)Wilco – The Whole Love
Wilco is an awesome band. We knew this, we knew this because of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” we knew this because of “Sky Blue Sky” but Jeff Tweedy continues to come up with some of the catchiest, sly-ist little songs I’ve ever heard. “Born Alone” is the type of song that makes me want to dye my hair dirty blonde, wear daisies behind my ears and hop in a pick-up owned by a guy with just the right amount of stubble on his cheeks. This album should be enough to make this band triumphantly mainstream, but for some reason I still feel like they are kind of under everyone’s radar. Maybe that’s where they want to be.

3)The Decemberists – The King is Dead
“Don’t Carry it All” is, in my opinion, the song that sums up where we need to go as a society. And for that, I give them extreme props. While it’s lacking a strict storyline, you know what this record is about all the same and I think that’s a strength. Instead of a script, characters and drama, we have scenes and messages. I also know that “Down by the Water” was overplayed like a motherfucker on indie radio, so we can only assume that means The Decemberists, with this release, are cemented in indie history. Applause.

2)Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
“What good is it to sing helplessness blues?/Why should I wait for anyone else?” If you’re looking for political philosophy musings as you yearn for an apple orchard to run through, Fleet Foxes will certainly soothe your desires. This is a band who I respected and enjoyed, and that’s only been furthered by this record. It rises, peaks and falls like an orchestra might, uncovering safeness in smallness and boldness in triumph.

1)The Wonder Years – Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing
Just when I thought I was maturing out of pop punk, The Wonder Years came along and gave me a reason to stay. I was familiar with a few songs from their last release, “The Upsides,” and picked up “Suburbia” on a whim ’cause I liked the title. I am a little amazed at the story they’ve woven through this record. You can see the sad town, you can feel the bitter winter, and you can hear the kids partying in backyards late at night. The opening track is an anthem for recovery from the toughest falls, the longest stretches of self-deprecating doubt. “And Now I’m Nothing” is acceptance, surrender to the now and the way it is. In between, “I Won’t Say the Lord’s Prayer” is an atheist seeking not answers but apathy, and “I’ve Given You All” is my favorite song I’ve ever heard about a homeless man. If you were about to write off the genre, don’t, because the honesty is still there. This is the record for those who want to get out of this town and start again, even if there’s no way out yet.

Honorable mentions to the following albums which I enjoy but have not listened to thoroughly enough to rank against the others: The Black Keys – El Camino; The Civil Wars – Barton Hallow; Laura Marling – A Creature I Do Not Know; Dia Frampton – Red.

EDIT: Aw shit I forgot about Taking Back Sunday. With John Nolan! I missed them in concert ’cause my car died and I was kind of homeless for a couple days. But good record, blasted it many times on 5 and 20 in Canandaigua.

EDIT 2: Iron and Wine! I suck at this.

12/22/11

We like to say “It’s complicated,” or “We have a history.” We like to pretend the goings-on between two people are layered and deep and meaningful to some unidentifiable depth.

But it’s not, really. You either want something, or you don’t. Everything else is just denial, justification, semantics and poetry.

“Hunter eyes
I’m lost and hardly noticed, slight goodbye
I want to rip your lips off in my mouth
And even in my greatest moment doubt
The line between deceit and right now

Simple math, it’s how our bodies even got here
Sinful math, the ebb and flow to multiply
What if I was wrong and no one cared to mention
What if it was true and all we thought was right was wrong?
Simple math, the truth cannot be fractioned
Either way…

I imply to mitigate the guilt, we could align
A perfectly constructed alibi
To hush the violent guilt that eats and never dies
In actual blame, they call me once the dark divides

Simple math, it’s why our bodies even lay here
Sinful math, the truth cannot be fashioned
What if you were crazy, would we have to listen then?

What if we’ve been trying to get to where we’ve always been?
What if I was wrong, and started trying to fix it?
What if you believed me? Everything is brilliant

What if I’ve been trying to get to where I’ve always been?
What if we’ve been trying to get to where we’ve always been?
Simple math, believe me, all is brilliant
What if we’ve been trying to kill the noise and silence?

What if I was wrong and you had never questioned it?
What if it was true, that all we thought was right, was wrong?
Simple math, the truth cannot be fractioned
I simply I’ve got to get it back then”

~Simple Math
Manchester Orchestra, Simple Math

2/11/10

Love.

7/18/10

dirty on the ground is what I need
I got another one to tell you and another one to make you believe

pity on the grass; I tried to be the one you needed
when I told you that you wanted something bigger than me

I’ve got friends in all the right places
I know what they want
and I know they don’t want me to stay

’cause you and I will ride
but when I need you
I need it quickly
in case you never know

I can’t play where I’m not supposed to anyway
any way, anyways, any way, anyways…

dirty on the ground is what I see
I need another reason why I need another reason
tell me to breathe

the dirtier the sound, the best I breathe
I tried to do it all for you
it didn’t do anything for me

I’ve got friends in all the right places
I know what they want
and I know they don’t want me to stay

and you and I will find
that when I need you
I need it quickly
in fact you’ll never know

I’ve got friends in all the right places
I know what they want
and I know they don’t want me to stay”

~I’ve Got Friends,
Manchester Orchestra, Mean Everything to Nothing

4/20/10

“Cause when I fly solo,
I fly so high”

~I Can Barely Breathe,
Manchester Orchestra, I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child

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