Manchester Orchestra On The Rise

Album of the year

The Set List

By Brian Washburn

It’s amazing to think that the album of the year for 2009 could have been released in late April. But after one listen, you’ll realize Manchester Orchestra has delved deep into their minds, hearts and souls and released what is sure to be at least a top five album of the year in “Means Everything to Nothing.”
While the Atlanta southern alternative/indie rock band hit the ground running in 2007 with “I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child,” it’s honesty and musical progress that takes listeners on a journey from today’s top alternative and indie bands and even back to the ’90s, given singer/guitarist Andy Hull’s almost undeniable similarities with Nirvana frontman and music god — the late Kurt Cobain. For proof, listen to the first minute of “In My Teeth.”
However, despite comparisons between the band and their predecessors Brand New, Radiohead, Nirvana, etc., Hull and company know what makes a song a radio hit, yet they have taken that formula and twisted it to their liking. The result is 11 of the best-written alternative/indie songs that actually have a shot to climb the charts of rock radio.
Manchester Orchestra’s musicianship has marginally improved from their previous effort. Guitar work, keys and the rhythm section all stepped up their game on “Everything,” yet they still possess the same tone and melodies found on previous Manchester Orchestra efforts. But even though the musicianship only took one step up, it is Hull’s songwriting and the rest of the band (who all took on more responsibility with this album) that really shines through on the band’s sophomore full-length album.
The album’s first single “I’ve Got Friends,” takes the catchy, deep lyricism of Hull (“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 puts it to a guitar intro so unique, so weird and then explodes into what could be a radio-anthem chorus.
However, that is only one example of many that can be found throughout the album that showcases the stellar songwriting.
Even though each song has its own unique sound and twist on the modern rock genre, some definitely have more kick and intrigue than others. “I Can Feel a Hot One,” “Shake It Off” and “Everything to Nothing” are the backbone. All are vastly different songs, but show the versatility of Manchester Orchestra. “100 Dollars” and “Tony the Tiger” are not as memorable, but they should not be overlooked when looking at the album as a whole.
Like Cobain, Brand New’s Jesse Lacey and other artists who possess mind-blowing songwriting abilities, there is the honesty and deep soul searching found in the lyricism of Andy Hull. It is Hull’s honesty that really shines through with lyrics such as “I’m the only son of a preacher that I know who does the things I do.”
Manchester Orchestra has only just begun their journey toward the top of the alternative/indie mountain of fame. While “Means Everything to Nothing” has the ability to become the album of the year, with the band’s songwriting abilities, there is no way this is Manchester’s album of their career.

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