Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
May 2nd, 2011 | 374 replies | 19,249 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: What if we’ve been trying to get to where we’ve always been?

Manchester Orchestra’s Simple Math is one of those albums that seemed destined for great things. From the release of the majestic single ‘Simple Math’ to the gradual unveiling of the rollicking ‘April Fool’ and haunting ‘Virgin’, there was no preventing the escalation that ensued. Expectations accumulated and became so concentrated that the threat of an immense letdown loomed on the horizon. It was a logical fear, considering how impossible it would have been to top the musically epic and lyrically profound title track; not to mention the fact that the band’s previous two releases, I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child and Mean Everything to Nothing, were both very well-received amongst a growing and ever loyal fan base. At the same time, however, there was a mystical, intangible quality surrounding Simple Math that seemed to provide an unreasonable amount of reassurance. This was going to be masterful, and almost like some overpowering force of nature, there was nothing anyone could do to alter its destined course. One listen is all it takes to be convinced of Simple Math’s brilliance, as its larger-than-life sound, gorgeous melodies, earnest lyrics, and sweeping strings will provide the transcendental experience of a lifetime – one that could forever change your opinion on what alternative southern rock bands are capable of achieving.

For avid fans of Manchester Orchestra, Simple Math is sure to be a spiritual occurrence. After all it is what they have been waiting for ever since the closing minutes of “The River”, a track not unlike the material present here only not quite as staggering. A matter of weeks ago, one could have argued that Manchester Orchestra has long been atop of their game; but Simple Math basically takes all the best aspects of the band, from the lush, moving ballads to the intense, raucous screams and makes something so fresh sounding and substantially more impressive that it is difficult to digest just how much their sound has progressed and matured. Even from the get-go, ‘Deer’ ushers Simple Math in like the dawning of a new era. Echoing guitar strings are plucked over a distant sounding chant, and like a burst of sunlight, vocalist Any Hull is already dropping moments of lyrical genius on us with lines like, “ Half a year and here you are again / I’d go out in public if nobody ever asked / I sit home and drink alone and hope that bottle speaks, like you, like us, like me.” The song exits quietly, bidding adieu to the past and welcoming in the future - welcoming in Simple Math. Perhaps it can not be better summarized than Hull already states it in the closing line of the song: “Dear everybody that has paid to see my band…I acted like an asshole so my albums would never burn…But I’m hungry now, and the scraps are dirty dirt.

As Simple Math runs its course, it obliterates expectations and defies the odds of a letdown with each and every one of its ten songs. Obvious highlights include the heavily orchestral ‘Mighty’, the borderline eccentric vocals in ‘Pensacola’, the impressive instrumental tightness of ‘April Fool’, and the soaring musical and lyrical achievements of ‘Simple Math.’ However, there is nary a weak track on the album, in fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a song that is even average. Every moment is inventive, exciting, and one-hundred percent Manchester Orchestra. The songs also feed off of each other, using subtleties like momentum, flow, and common themes to create the ultimate cathartic experience for the listener – one that is strong from the start, and only gets better. Perhaps the best mid-album find, and yet another gem on an album overflowing with them, is ‘Virgin’ – a track that manages to sound eerie yet urgently compelling and includes an unforgettable, creepy children’s choir. ‘Leaky Breaks’ closes out the magnificent conjuration in a rather cool, offhand fashion that despite its anticlimactic nature, turns out to be very complex and intriguing…it just chooses to delicately reveal itself, slowly unraveling in waves of mini-crescendos and lulling vocals from front man Andy Hull. And as it stands, brilliant and capable on its own, it is right on theme with the rest of Simple Math; the unquestioned magnum opus of Manchester Orchestra’s career to date.

Even beyond the vast scope of musical greatness contained within Manchester Orchestra’s fourth LP, there is an element of transcendentalism that goes far beyond what we can take from the album’s surface value. Perception can be a powerful thing, and Manchester Orchestra plays to all of one’s senses here, particularly of the intellectual and emotional nature, by raising ambiguous questions that spur internal conflict. There is perhaps no better illustration of this than the title track, which to a full-sounding orchestra and an abundance of string sections, commands us to ponder the very purpose of our existence:

What if I was wrong and no one cared to mention
What if it was true and all we thought was right was wrong?
Simple math, the truth cannot be fractioned
Either way…
What if we’ve been trying to get to where we’ve always been?
Simple math, believe me, all is brilliant

Hull could be raising a number of different points here, from the insistence that we, as human beings, have a tendency to trust what generations of science have told us to be true. But what if our perceptions, down to the very inch, are wrong? There is no way of knowing, and the very notion of that possible instability in our society’s foundation is earth-shattering…and to be blunt, the kind of thing that makes your head spin when you are laying in bed at night. The lyrics also take on meaning double fold, as they could be applied to the band, you, me, or anyone else by implying that our never ending pursuit of perfection may end in this present moment. What if we’ve been trying to get to where we’ve always been? There is no telling what tomorrow holds, and what we perceive as a horizon, as an ideal future, could all be a mirage. Today could be as good as it gets, and Manchester Orchestra knows it. Just look at this album – they have always had it in them, they just had to go ahead and make it. Simple Math is deeper and more insightful than many people are probably even aware of, and careful inspection of Andy Hull’s lyrical masterpieces take these musical accomplishments and give them a timeless factor, one that quite frankly is nothing short of artistic.

Simple Math is colossal in every way imaginable. It takes every hint of brilliance that Manchester Orchestra has subtly displayed in "I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child" and "Mean Everything to Nothing", and nurtures and cultivates it into the single greatest sounding thing that the band has ever and likely ever will create. At times glossed over with heart-swelling strings and at other times perfecting the band's nitty gritty sound from songs like "Shake It Out", Simple Math is the perfect balance of Manchester Orchestra's best traits. It is utterly breathtaking upon first listen, and every subsequent listen will only cause your jaw to drop an additional inch or two. It will stand the test of time as it makes its mark on a generation, simultaneously inspiring others to follow in its footsteps. This is simply the greatest album to be released in the past five years, and it will be worth every drop of hyperbolic acclaim that it receives.



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user ratings (870)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • blacklight67 (5)
    'Simple Math' is the heaviest, and darkest record Manchester Orchestra have recorded, and ...

    C.F. (4.5)
    Manchester Orchestra solidifies their cult following with an overdue mature entry into the...

    Gerbilman (3)
    The much anticipated follow up to "Mean Everything To Nothing" thrills and disappoints in ...

    Matt Wolfe EMERITUS (3.5)
    Manchester Orchestra delight and frustrate with their third full-length....

  • Alxander18 (5)
    Manchester Orchestra deliver a home run....

    Adam Knott EMERITUS (4.5)
    I hope eventually you'll see what you've been turning me into; it's all for you....

    Blindsided (4)
    Andy Hull makes us love math again....


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2011



15861 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Swore I'd review this, no matter how many other reviews are going on around me. And goddammit, I am a man of my word.

Album is absolutely as good as everyone says. Listen now.
http://www.columbiarecords.com/simplemath/



Digging: Maybeshewill - Fair Youth

Eko
May 2nd 2011



2119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

listening to this now its great

SeaAnemone
May 2nd 2011



19997 Comments


really love the direction they took in this... smaller sound than METN (overrated by the community in my eyes but oh well), and it works wonderfully. I've been following them since they first released Like A Virgin and I honestly didn't think they were capable of something this good, but it sure is awesome. No gripes with the 5, Leopold

Digging: Natural Snow Buildings - The Night Country

rasputin
May 2nd 2011



14538 Comments


albums streams

listen once

listen again

write 5/5 review

post on sputnikmusic.com

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
May 2nd 2011



23806 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"Swore I'd review this, no matter how many other reviews are going on around me. And goddammit, I am a man of my word."

me too, I'm definitely having a crack at this. I wanted to post it when the stream came up but now I'm thinking in a week or so.

good review, I skimmed through it (tl;dr and the canadian election results are coming in so sputnik doesn't get my full attention right now, I'll give it a proper read later though)

Eko
May 2nd 2011



2119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

for some reason the album seems a little choppy but its still awesome

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
May 2nd 2011



7023 Comments


last paragraph is lulz

Digging: FKA twigs - LP1

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2011



15861 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Well I could have waited a week and posted this. But my opinion won't change...I'm not an impulsive reviewer, so I know it when an album overtakes me in such a way that I havent felt since TDAG...

letsgofishing
May 2nd 2011



901 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"It will stand the test of time as it makes its mark on a generation, simultaneously inspiring others to follow in its
footsteps."

...Said less than a day after the stream went up.

I might agree, might not....but maybe it would be a good thing for everyone to wait for the initial hard-on to soften
before you review....Excellent writing as always, but perhaps a bit too hyperbolic.

Blaizend
May 2nd 2011



647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^ agree

Alxander18
May 3rd 2011



278 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I figured you'd do this soon haha. Fantastic review, puts mine to shame. I pos'd.

And really, I 100% agree with everything you said here, people whining about how long it's been out be damned.

BigTuna
May 3rd 2011



5155 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

METN was the soundtrack to an incredibly difficult period of my life and every song seemed to fit what was happening.

So it'll never be surpassed.

That being said, this is astounding.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2011



15861 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

yeah i don't see the difference between 4.5ing something right away or 5ing it. It's all opinion anyway

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2011



31085 Comments


Maybe it's just me, but all these reviews just make me want to avoid this. And I like MO

Digging: Banks - Goddess

Eko
May 3rd 2011



2119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

not really seeing the brilliance on first listen sounds like 3.5/4 but its a grower?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2011



15861 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I have never been more comfortable praising an album to this extent, this quickly

Spare
May 3rd 2011



5271 Comments


a 5 is the highest possible rating you can give an album. if you really think you've judged well enough within a few listens that an album is one of the best you've ever heard then ok but i'd generally reserve the highest possible praise i can give to an album that has proven its worth to me. ok computer is my favourite album and i've listened to it many hundreds of times and i'm not going to put an album i've only listened to a few times in the same category so easily.

that said, good review lol

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2011



31085 Comments



Maybe it's just me, but all these reviews just make me want to avoid this. And I like MO


Aaaand as soon I say that, the 320rip pops up for download. Fuck it, will obtain and rate as 3 to spite you

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2011



15861 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

i sort of understand the points that many of you are making, and i know i can't convince you that this is certain enough...all i can say is give it time (since that apparently is the solution), and if this is your type of thing, you will in all likelihood agree or come close to agreeing

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
May 3rd 2011



23806 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I like that people are realizing how good this band is but all the hype is actually starting to bug me a bit. These guys have been one of my favourite bands for a while but now I'm scared the bandwagon fans are going to ruin this band just like they did with Defeater.

Too early to tell though, I dunno just sayin really. I guess I'm just too cool for popular music....

hahahahaha yeah right I eat up sputnik hype like candy



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