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Album Pick of the Month: Manchester Orchestra’s Cope

Manchester Orchestra

It’s been a few years since Manchester Orchestra put out an album.

But whereas 2011’s Simple Math—the Atlanta-based band’s most acclaimed and highest charting album to date—was packed with horns, strings and a children’s choir, the upcoming Cope (April 1) is as focused as a ball-peen hammer strike.

As such, Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull feels like his band is filling a need in the indie rock scene.

“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,” Hull explained. “I wanted this to be black and red the whole time.”

Consider Hull’s mission accomplished.

Cope packs 11 tracks of gut-punching heavy rock into its tidy 38 minutes, and rightfully so. This is undoubtedly Manchester Orchestra’s loudest album to date. Massive riffs are peppered throughout, hooks soar resoundingly high and the low end chugs like a runaway locomotive from the start.

CopeCope opens with the single “Top Notch.” Guitars strike like a lightning bolt and are layered on top of each other, building towards Hull’s shrill voice blasting out the repeated refrain.

The guys continue that trend with the passionate track, “The Ocean,” which finds a dirging beat giving way to piercing screeches from guitarist Robert McDowell.  All of it leads to Hull’s wave-riding chorus, as he closes out the song with “Iiiiiiiiii give it to the ocean, the oooocean…”

“Every Stone” is another thrilling highlight. It almost serves as a respite from the weight of the entire album. The drums are just as aggressive as with any other track, but there is something about the tempo that gives it a summery feel.

Late in the album, Manchester Orchestra seem to calm the seas with “Indentions,” a tune that starts gently enough but evolves into a distortion-laden thunderclap as Hull exclaims, “I won’t leave indentions of me / I won’t leave intentionally.”

Cope ends, perhaps fittingly, with the title track, a sonic boom of a song that features a ferocious riff with grungy feedback, pushing it into the outer reaches of metal.

Manchester Orchestra’s fourth album was made during a seminal time for the band. It began during a period when Hull and his mates were between labels for the first time since the group’s inception.

But between June 2012 and March 2013, Hull, McDowell, keyboardist/percussionist Chris Freeman, bassist Andy Prince and drummer Tim Very soldiered on. The guys bought an Atlanta house in which some of them had previously lived as roommates and converted it into a full recording studio.

After paring about 28 songs down to the final 11, they turned to John Agnello (Dinosaur, Jr., Kurt Vile, The Thermals, Sonic Youth) to mix Cope at Fluxivity in Brooklyn, but their initial gritty, organic approach to the process certainly shines through.

“Cope, to me, means getting by,” Hull said. “It means letting go, and being OK with being OK. You can cope in a positive way when bad things happen, or a negative way, and that blend was a big lyrical theme for me on this album.”

With this latest offering, Manchester Orchestra obviously had to weather a storm that befalls many bands.  Those uncertain waters could easily derail a project, but Hull instead headed directly into the chop.

Fortunately, Cope is a testament to Hull’s dedication, as the album just might be Manchester Orchestra at their best.

For more information, visit Manchester Orchestra’s official website

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