Manchester Orchestra // A Black Mile To The Surface
Written by: J.M
Manchester Orchestra's fifth studio album, A Black Mile To The Surface, feels like a steaming drink and wool blanket late on a cold, stormy night, with time standing still.
The three year wait since the Atlanta-based band's last release, Cope (and accompanying acoustic album Hope), was well worth it. Written over what the band says was "11 months of intense internal scrutinization," the quiet power and completeness of sound present in each track shows the band's growth while retaining the distinctive vocals, soothing melodies, and poignant lyrics that have won the band its fans. While nothing on A Black Mile to the Surface is particularly envelope pushing for Manchester Orchestra, each song stands strong on its own while also settling cohesively into a knock-out album.
"The Moth" is the most musically similar song to previous albums, while the opening to "Lead, SD" has a more synthetic influence. Occasionally, the melodies from song to song will fall into a pocket and start to sound slightly similar and predictable, but that is offset by enough melodic risks that it's easily overlooked.
Lyrically, vocalist Andy Hull hones in on the small, mundane details that ground you in the world of the songs (similar to Campbell's lyrics for The Wonder Years and Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties, but presented in a somewhat more abstract way in A Black Mile To The Surface). This is particularly present on the track "Lead, SD" which opens with "There are parts of me just stuck inside the grocery / In the produce aisle with the dead beats / Rustling trying to look busy but they're high like me" and in the following track "The Alien," where Hull sings, "The lights were low enough you guessed / You swapped your conscience with your father's medication / Limped from Rome to Lawrenceville / And on the way wrote out a self-made declaration."
Simple, tug-on-the-heartstrings lyrics are also prevalent, especially in the album's first single, "The Gold," with a refrain of "I believed you were crazy / You believe you love me" that sets the tone for the rest of the album: an examining, a looking back, a reconciliation between past and present.
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