Very few albums can last much further than their release time frame. It’s a factor that makes us wonder why we write about them at all sometimes, only because what moves you today may not move you tomorrow, and there’s so much music coming at you, that some records feel stale a month after they’ve dropped. When A Black Mile to the Surface came out last year, it showed that Manchester Orchestra could step outside their crunchy guitars and create something beautiful. Though it didn’t chart as high as their previous releases, over a year on we find ourselves still listening to it, which impresses even us that it could be the staying power album that the indie rock genre needs.
The album holds these cinematic qualities that give it a depth that most indie rock doesn’t hold. The dark and emotive opener, “The Maze” sounds like music from a film, or perhaps from a memory montage. The simplistic way that Andy Hull’s vocals mix with piano and drums sticks with you, and doesn’t fall on what their contemporaries do, meaning it lasts beyond the drop date. This continues with the meandering and folky notes of “The Gold.” Aside from the fact that the lyrics are the strongest that the band has ever penned, the song just works on multiple levels. You get your indie rock feels while the emotive notes and stunning solo vocals stand out like something from a band on a larger scale, yet don’t come off as cheesy.
The band takes the record into new spaces on multiple tracks, starting with “Lead, SD” where they employ synths and a darkness that sounds eerily distant, yet you aren’t removed from the intention. The way the drums have a thunderous quality that mixes with synthesizers on “The Wolf” makes the song hit harder and comes as close to a song from another planet that the band has ever recorded. The bleak and emotionally charged tones on “The Silence” show how deep the band can get without abandoning core fans, where the piano, drum, and vocal mixture craft a sound we’ve never heard from these guys, yet we’ve heard from bands with multi-million dollar recording budgets.
That doesn’t mean that the album is all new territory explored either. Tracks like the sweet sounding “The Sunshine,” the rock heavy “The Moth,” and the softer yet still heavy handed sounds of “The Alien” fall closer to what the band has become known for. The entire release is coming from a band reborn, reinvented, and re-imagined without selling their souls to get there. If every indie rock band went back to the drawing board every now and again, their staying power might increase more, and their records might hold longer between releases.
You can stream A Black Mile to the Surface and all of the band’s releases on all streaming platforms. You can purchase the album in all digital storefronts, or directly from the band’s web store. You can catch Manchester Orchestra on tour until the end of the year, tomorrow in Houston at House of Blues until December 18 at Tsongas Center in Lowell, Massachusetts. A complete list of their tour dates can be found here.
Image Credits: Photo Courtesy of Chromatic.