A BLACK MILE TO THE SURFACE (LOMA VISTA)
FOR over a decade now, Manchester Orchestra have made a career putting out records that sound nothing like the last.they’ve earned life-long fans through the depth of emotion in frontman Andy Hull’s songwriting, and retained that audience with constant innovation and experimentation. It’s almost ironically predictable, then, that this album is once again a stunning reinvention.
Having recently written the score for Daniel Radcliffe movie, Swiss Army Man,andy and guitarist Robert Mcdowell have a few new tricks up their sleeves.as opening songthe Maze builds to a towering crescendo, by way of muted guitars and moody keys, and the song’s many layers start to unfurl, it becomes apparent that one of those tricks is a refined mastery of atmosphere. From then on, that atmosphere, in various forms and degrees of intensity, becomes the defining characteristic of A Black Mile To The Surface.
Musically, potent use of dynamics and a canyonwide range of unique sounds and instrumentation manages to create something that eludes many bands with similarly grand ambitions: an album that flows together perfectly without its songs ever blurring into one. Subtle patterns and melodies recur across tracks, stealthily tying the album together, while each of its most poignant moments manage to stand out on their own.a haunting refrain of ‘Do you need me?’ on The Alien manages to find new hairs to raise with each repetition, while The Grocery’s steady ascent to a euphoric release is nothing short of breathtaking.
This is the first Mo record that Andy has written since becoming a father, so themes of family and responsibility understandably take up considerable lyrical real estate.album highlightthe Parts is a heartwarming ode to Andy’s wife, and on the aforementioned opener he seeks to decipher his young daughter’s mind by writing from her perspective. elsewhere, his musings on mortality are delivered with a new weight of severity.andy has always been considered a gifted storyteller, but the pictures painted here are his most vivid to date.
Overall,a Black Mile… is a somewhat subdued offering and far from Manchester Orchestra’s most immediately tuneful record.writing ‘hits’ was never the aim here.while that might deter some, those that remain interested will find the most inspired album of an already ambitious band’s career.this is a painstakingly composed work of art – and an absolute masterpiece at that. DOWNLOAD: The Alien,the Parts. FOR Fans OF: Brand New, Sufjan Stevens.