Alternative music has never stopped evolving. From the punk of the 80′s, to today’s emo-screamo-killthemall type of headbanging clutter, the alternative scene always tries to move forward, although it does take some misteps (do not listen to Brokencyde aka the worst excuse of music I have ever heard). This past winter, one of the most celebrated alternative folk band, Arcade Fire, won Best Album, and rightfully so. There music gives the genre brand new light, with a folk sound that is only complimented by how musically sound everyone in the band is.
But if you want to talk about a band not being a rock band, but musicians, then there’s always Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra. Their first LP, Mean Everything To Nothing, is still highly regarded as one of the best albums of 2009. Songs like “Shake It Out,” “I Can Feel A Hot One,” and “I’ve Got Friends” showcased how hauntlingly beautiful an alt-indie-folk outfit can be without losing themselves. I still listen to MEtN from time to time, and it still is one great album, one of which that is overlooked by many. Since then, lead singer Andy Hull, along with Kevin Devine, dived into their respectable side project, Bad Books. Along with that, Hull also heads a Iron and Wine-esque solo project, Right Away, Great Captain! Although neither have garnered Hull with any sort of public success, his name is known and respected among the independent crowds.
However, after listening to Manchester Orchestra’s new LP, Simple Math (being released on May 10th), both of his side projects might have to take an indefinate hiatus. This 10 song album delivers 100% of what Manchester Orchestra can deliver. Andy Hull’s soulfully loud voice carries every song, with his high octive range and decent sing-a-long points to some of the songs. The first single “Simple Math” starts as a gentle ballad; the actual orchestrics fit beautifully with Hull’s lyrics and voice as a whole. “Pensacola” brings a light hearted tune, with some pretty dark lyrics, some of which explain a husband’s awful connection to his daughter. The incredibly haunting “Virgin” showcases how musically superior a rock band can be; each member of the band helps sing the chorus, along with a children’s choir, which originally drew me into the song, and helped keep it in my memory.
Other songs to note include the country twang’d “Pale Black Eye,” Mean Everything To Nothing sounding “April Fool,” and melancholie soft “Leave It Alone.” Each brings different elements of what makes Manchester Orchestra great, from their sothern flare, to it’s lyrical charm, and an evolutionary element that tries to make each song one-up each other. Simple Math is not what this album is at all. In fact, this is one of the most complex albums of the year, bringing in different elements that makes Manchester Orchestra what they are; an alternative band that is now demanding respect from it’s peers. Although I do enjoy some songs more than others, I cannot sit here and pick a favorite song. What I can do, however, is tell you that Simple Math, for right now, is my album of the year.