Thanks for being here! Just a reminder that I have paid subscriptions too and the Annual Subscribers get a 7” and zine series. I’m sending out the second one this month, so if you want to get in on that, now is the time!
In 2017 I was on tour with Julien Baker in Europe when she brought up Manchester Orchestra’s then-new record A Black Mile To The Surface. I wasn’t especially familiar with their music, which I will blame on punk rock indoctrinating me to hate anything resembling indie rock from a young age. I obviously don’t hate indie rock anymore, but I’ve been playing catchup since around 2012, so cut me some slack.
All I remember is sitting in the back of our rental car, and Julien saying something about that record being their best work yet, and our tour manager turned driver, Sean responding to a reckless driver with his sarcastic “SURE!”, and on we went.
Once I got back home, I listened to this Manchester Orchestra she was talking about. By the end of the opening track, The Maze, I was filled with both joy and rage that somehow - SOMEHOW - none of my friends had forced their records on me before. I’m still baffled. HOW?! Why? Talk about guitar-driven rock you can sing along to. Geez.
Discovering Manchester Orchestra happened just after watching Julien Baker play songs off of her sophomore record Turn Out The Lights before it was released. They’re inextricably linked for me, and surprisingly similar acts. If you’re familiar with both, you might be wondering what the fuck I’m on about, considering Julien’s arrangements have been far more sparse than MO’s million layers of guitars. But if you’ve ever watched her perform (or spent much time with her records), you’d understand the volume of emotion that comes with Julien’s songs. In my mind, or in my heart anyway, they’re on an even sonic playing field.
The next release from Julien, Little Oblivions, will only bring this comparison closer, as I think it will qualify as “full band” even though I’m confident she’ll find a way to orchestrate the whole thing on stage solo. That comes out next week! I’ve put the video for the first single, Faith Healer, below.
I bring these things up because last night Manchester Orchestra released a song off of their next album The Million Masks of God. I’m a big fan of bands not writing the same record twice, and the song “Bed Head” shows a definitive step in an energetic direction. Hearing a band that is generally pretty dark add an upbeat, driving rhythm is maybe my favorite thing?
Listening to this new one reminded me of when I got to hear a Hop Along demo a few years ago and their drummer Mark asked me something along the lines of “is this too dancey?!” No, no it is not too dancey and you should turn this influence up to 11, please. I understood the voice of teenage punks inside his head saying “ew, too much rhythm and hi hat!” but seriously, fuck them. More of this!
My most recent exchange with Julien was actually her recommending I listen to the band Friendship Commanders. I always appreciate a good “have you heard this?” They remind me somehow of both Gouge Away and Fifth Hour Hero, along with a band I once loved and can no longer listen to, so this fills a great void. Check ‘em out!
Friends don’t let friends miss out on the following records:
Julien Baker - Sprained Ankle
Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights
Manchester Orchestra - Cope
Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile To The Surface
Hop Along - Get Disowned
Hop Along - Painted Shut
Hop Along - Bark Your Head Off, Dog
Bad Books - II
Bad Books - III