Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface

Their knack for the quiet and dramatic has always been present in Manchester Orchestra’s work. On some records it was rather underlying, while more explicit on others, so it’s not surprising that they chose to amplify it to the point of perfection on “A Black Mile to the Surface”. Carefully constructed melodies that complement front man Andy Hull’s extraordinary timbre, paired with complex, harmonic guitar parts and highly emotional lyrics carrying an almost unbearable weight – that’s what we already know, and what’s here to stay.

The addition of synth elements, however, benefits the creation of a somber, yet somehow content atmosphere, resulting in the birth of an abstract place you’ll never want to leave. You’ll find lyrics that speak in riddles, but you’ll almost certainly find fractures of yourself in a lot of them. You’ll find comfort, food for thought, as well as your new favorite song to cry to.

Unlike their former records, this album lacks a point that raises your feet off the ground, hitting your eardrums real hard, tearing out your heart. Where the previous ones grew loud, “A Black Mile to the Surface” fades from its comparably subtle buildups again and settles at a calmer tone. Less like a rollercoaster, more like a peaceful drive through the night. What some people might miss, I do not. This record is all that I didn’t know I needed.

Faultless Rating: ✔✔✔✔✔

Song recommendation(s): The Gold, The Moth, The Silence

The Wonder Years. Rock City, Nottingham, UK. 08/07/17.

A Will Away – Here Again

I know “Here Again” has been out for a while now, but ever since, it has been that album that I’ll get aggressively passionate about, because I haven’t found a single thing to criticize about it. That’s right, I just spoiled this whole review, but hear me out.

The first track on the album, the title track, starts off with guitars that remind you of Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again”, but you instantly realize that this is more intricate than anything Blink could ever come up with (no offense). And from that point on you’re filled with anxiety. You want the rest of the album to be as perfect as that first song, but you know that, most of the time, that’s wishful thinking. Not this time.

A Will Away have mastered the art of changing dynamics and tempo without it sounding forced. Matt Carlson’s vocals frequently switch from forceful to falsetto, and even that seems to be done effortlessly. At some points, you even start to wonder how it is possible for them to sound this polished. But right when your brain starts working out conspiracy theories, because the vocals occasionally do sound too good to be real, a song like “Into The Light” proves that there is, in fact, an edge to them. Incidentally, this song is one of those that I’d love to “scrub […] like salt into [my] open wounds”.

Moreover, the Connecticut-based band has managed to write an album filled with catchy, melodic, pop-rocky songs that seamlessly melt into each other, which would usually imply that it’s boring. Not this time. Every song has something memorable, adding a different element or tone as the album progresses. You could listen to each song separately and it would be great, but listening to the whole album just so happens to be 13 times as great.

Faultless Rating: ✔✔✔✔✔

Song recommendation(s): Here Again, Crochet, The Shakes… actually, scratch that, listen to all of them – AOTY contender alert!