Story by Zach Dresch
If you’re looking for the best rock album of the year so far, look no further than Manchester Orchestra’s brand new album Cope.
Manchester Orchestra is an alternative rock band from Atlanta, Georgia, and they have been around since 2004. With this album being their fourth release, fans have been eager to hear new music from them since it has been about three years since we have heard new music from these guys. Fortunately, fans will not be disappointed since these are some of the heaviest yet catchiest tracks you will hear all year.
Frontman Andy Hull himself has stated, “We wanted to make the kind of album that’s missing at this time in rock: something that’s just brutal and pounding you over the head every track.”
He isn’t lying either. Each track has a heavy layer of hard rock, layered with Hull’s uniquely soft yet occasionally tortured vocals. Hooky choruses and palm-muted verses take over the overall context and concept of the record.
First single “Top Notch” wastes no time starting with a no-holds-barred rock track that will be stuck in your head for days. Honestly any song on this album could be a radio single. If you’re a fan of heavy Manchester Orchestra, then this may be your favorite album of theirs.
Most of Manchester’s previous discography features a wide variety of styles, ranging from folk to slow indie rock to even ballads. You will not get that here, and I think that makes sense since this is the most focused and consistent album you will get from the band, at least at this point in their career.
When looking at their past work, Mean Everything to Nothing, their second album, was charming because it combined their heaviness with several intricate slower tracks. Simple Math, their third album, was more of an intricate album with less heaviness that made a few fans turn their heads, but I have also heard several people say Simple Math is their best work, which really is what makes Manchester Orchestra so brilliant. There is no consensus on what their best work is, and everyone can agree their work as a whole is fantastic in scope.
In regards to the tracks, second single “Every Stone” is my favorite song on the album. It has a lightness to it but also that heavy feel in the chorus. This song perfectly combines the intricacy and distortion to make the perfect Manchester Orchestra song. “Girl Harbor” and “Indentions” are other MO tracks that hearken back to Simple Math but once again, have a more mainstream rock approach to them. There are a couple of songs towards the end that feel a little similar in approach, but in the context of the album, it makes total sense.
“The Ocean” is another personal favorite, with the simplest chorus being incredibly effective. Title track “Cope” could possibly be the hardest rock song they have ever written, with an extreme Black Sabbath influence presented in its riff. I also encourage everyone to download the deluxe version of Cope on iTunes, where you will receive two bonus tracks, one of which is one of the best songs they have ever written, “After the Scripture”. This song was featured in the recent Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club. This song is so raw, featuring just Andy Hull beautifully crooning over a distorted guitar. I feel like this song should have been on the album, but I understand why since they wanted every track to be loud and distorted rock.
Hopefully this album is the band’s breakthrough to bigger things. Yes, they are one of the more successful indie rock bands of recent memory, but they belong higher up on the rock food chain. This album could very well be their “calling card” of sorts, and the one they are known for. I would rankCope second on my list of their best albums, with Mean Everything to Nothing being ahead by a small margin, just because it combines everything the band is known for, but Cope is a definitive statement in the sense that they set out to make the best rock record they possibly could, and they certainly exceeded expectations. Check this album out if you are a fan of rock music in general. I cannot recommend this album enough, because it is that good.