American indie rock band Manchester Orchestra has been making music together for a decade.
Originally from Atlanta, GA., the group is signed to independent record label Favorite Gentlemen Recordings.
COPE, Manchester’s fourth full-length album, was released April 1 of this year. The record consists of 11 fast, loud tracks that carry an infectious energy throughout.
The band has experimented with crafting its sound since its first studio album release in 2006. Lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Andy Hull, seems to have produced his most natural sound yet with COPE.
“Our mission statement was to make a crazy-loud rock record,” Hull told SPIN Magazine. “Something that’s just brutal and pounding you over the head with every track, something unrelenting and unapologetic.”
Manchester Orchestra is not new to this style, but past albums have fluctuated more dynamically so that the louder tracks stand out. “Shake it Out,” a fan favorite from Mean Everything to Nothing, is a prime example. While COPE does have its quieter moments, they are definitely minimized.
This summer, the band recorded the same 11 songs with a completely renewed vision. HOPE was released on Sept. 16 as an unplugged, completely re-imagined version of COPE.
Hull allowed the same lyrics to hold more weight by simplifying arrangements and stripping down the original tracks. This refreshed, quieter presentation tells a more emotionally driven story.
Keeping true to his roots, Hull’s lyrics continue to illustrate ideas of frustration, doubt, honesty and letting go. His catchy lyrics are often cryptic and tend to be read as personal letters addressed to specific people: “And I know your faults / I know the way you write them off / I don’t want anything to do with it no more.”
This way, listeners are able to make their own interpretations when determining meaning and also develop their own personal connection to the music.
The opening track “Top Notch,” originally an aggressive, heavy guitar piece, is transformed into a hauntingly beautiful ballad that sets the tone for the harmonious tracks that follow on HOPE. The captivating lyricism of songs like “Every Stone” is highlighted after eliminating strong instrumentation.
“Our goal was to be as sensitive as possible about not overcrowding the music, and letting it breathe and aiming for pretty,” Hull said in an interview. “We aimed for nasty and guttural stuff on COPE…I’ve always liked both sensibilities.”
Hull’s distinguishable voice is at the forefront of HOPE, particularly on “See It Again,” an a cappella song created with dozens of separate tracks of his vocals. A string quartet was another technique used to create delicate textural elements for several songs.
While each album displays entirely unique talents of Manchester Orchestra, each is also strong enough to stand on its own. COPE is appropriate for a carefree weekend road trip with a group of friends, while the equally powerful HOPE is more fitting for a solitary late night drive.
Whether heavy guitars are your style, or you prefer softer acoustic pieces, COPE and its rebirth HOPE offer something that appeals to a wide variety of tastes.
Manchester Orchestra is touring intimate venues around the country to promote HOPE. One of their next stops will be the New Daisy Theatre on Beale Street in Memphis Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $22 when purchased in advance or $25 at the door that night. A digital download of HOPE is included with every ticket ordered for the show.