Album Review: Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface

When I first heard of this band, I had no idea why they were called Manchester Orchestra. After all, they aren’t an orchestra, and they definitely aren’t from Manchester the last time I checked. But after listening to this album I think I have more of a clue. An orchestra has so many different little parts building up to make a symphony, and this band is the same in many ways, at least in this. Their music is very lovingly and carefully created, with loads of clever details building up to create some incredible songs. Still no idea about the Manchester part though.

If I had to choose one word to describe this album, it would be ‘atmosphere’. All of the songs add together to create a melancholy soundtrack, and it works extremely well. Despite this, all of the tracks have a their own traits, making each song unique. This works perfectly, because all of the album sounds like one whole soundtrack, but doesn’t sound samey enough to be boring. One particular song that stands out to me is ‘The Parts’, the most stripped-back song on the album. Despite this, it still creates a moody feeling throughout, and the sound of the acoustic guitar is somehow soothing but never stays enough to make the song an less atmospheric.

As I mentioned earlier, all of the songs convey a similar feeling, which makes this album feel like it could be the soundtrack to a film or something similar. This is quite fitting as this is the band’s first full project after soundtracking the 2016 film Swiss Army Man. This melancholy atmosphere stretches from tracks like ‘The Mistake’, with lyrics like ‘I don’t want to die alone’, which is as dark as it is relatable, all the way to tracks like ‘The Sunshine’, which has more of a folky feel.

All of this continuity builds up to final track ‘The Silence’, which is only silent in name. It is a track that slowly builds up in terms of music, and then back down again. It is a seven minute odyssey of a track, creating a beautifully moody sound, and drawing this album to a close perfectly. Lots of albums are a great collection of songs, but this is something more; a beautifully working machine of an album. Take any of the songs, and it wouldn’t feel the same, but all together, this is a masterpiece. Truly one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.

Best song: The Silence

Score: 10/10


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