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Manchester Orchestra – “The Silence”

Every time I think I’ve heard the best that Manchester Orchestra has to offer, they surprise me.  In 2006, I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child floored me – the earnest vulnerability of “Colly Strings” sticking with me through many relationships.  In 2009 it was the raw simplicity of Mean Everything to Nothing, where the tragic storytelling of “I Can Feel a Hot One” practically reduced me to tears.  In 2011, it was the sweeping magnificence of Simple Math, its title track probing questions of faith and existence that I’d never pondered before.  I never thought they’d top a moment of such profundity, but lo and behold, 2017’s A Black Mile to the Surface did exactly that.  Trying to select a song by Manchester Orchestra to represent this decade was probably the toughest decision I’ve had to make yet, but when all the smoke finally settled, it was “The Silence” that was left standing.

At a towering seven minutes, “The Silence” brings closure to the emotional wreckage entailed by A Black Mile.  The album has several themes coursing through its veins – some obvious (such as Hull’s tales of abuse growing up) and some more subtle (allusions to miscarriage).  Through all of the recounted tragedy, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Andy wrote the song for his daughter – as both an apology and a promise.  “Little girl, you are cursed by my ancestry / There is nothing but darkness and agony”, he sings of his own upbringing – eventually resolving to do better by her: “Let me hold you above all the misery / Let me open my eyes and be glad that I got here.”  It’s a moment that is both beautiful and intense, residing at the crux of the song in which the tempo shifts from plodding/ponderous to a crescendo of drums and guitars clashing thunderously off in the distance.  In this moment, Hull sees that his daughter is the only extension of his life that really matters: “There is nothing you keep, there is only your reflection.”  Then, there’s a moment of pure genius where the same line is faintly echoed mere moments later, acting as the “echo” to said reflection.

Everything about “The Silence” is beautiful, from the music to its lyrics.  The latter is something I can relate to with ease right now, as I prepare for the birth of my first child.  I’ve said and done a lot of things in my life that I’m not proud of, but I know that my son will grow up to become a better man than I am.  As my reflection, he will unintentionally / inevitably learn some undesirable traits; just as I did from my father and his father before him.  But the trajectory is pointing up; and as a family we’ll keep improving – through the black, to the surface.  I can’t think of a song with a more important message than that.

Read more from this decade at my homepage for Sowing’s Songs of the Decade.





SowingSeason
03.28.19
Not the song I originally would have expected myself to choose, but after careful consideration I'm pretty damn happy with it.

Simple Math was always my favorite album by MO, and the t/t was going to be my choice, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that album - as sweeping as it is - doesn't measure up to anything from A Black Mile emotionally. And this is the most affecting song for me personally - although Lead, SD also came close.

What an amazing band.

Slex
03.28.19
Album has grown off of me a lot but this is a stunning song indeed
My personal pick would be the duet he did with Julien Baker, actually

anarchistfish
03.28.19
tame impala - let it happen pls

Dylan620
03.28.19
Still sad I missed them when they came to MA back in December... during finals week :(

My personal pick probably would be "Pale Black Eye" but this song is also brilliant.

BigHans
03.28.19
Does anyone else thing The Maze is one of the best indie rock songs ever?

Slex
03.28.19
*raises hand*

Rowan5215
03.28.19
all about The Alien and The Grocery for me but album is perfect

Rowan5215
03.28.19
y'all sleep on After the Scripture too

SowingSeason
03.28.19
@Slex: This album has done the opposite for me. Every time I hear it, I'm transported back to the humid summer of 2017, and some devastating memories associated with it. I like the song with Julien Baker as well, but it doesn't pack nearly the emotional gut punch that this does.
@anarchistfish: How did you know there'd be a TI song on this list in the near future? ;-)
@Dylan: Pale Black Eye is in my top 10, but probably wouldn't have landed on this list for me personally. I still love that line where he sings "I wish I loved you like I used to" - so brutually honest.
@BigHans: *also raises hand*, it's at least one of the best openers ever...it's like "Deer" from Simple Math but way more heavenly

Slex
03.28.19
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards is probably in my top 5 songs of the decade, hope it's that the one
Also yeah The Maze is their best opener imo

ProjectFreak
03.28.19
The Grocery just barely edges this out for me but this track is colossal. Man, summer 2017 was nuts with this, Go Farther in Lightness and Science Fiction all coming out in rapid succession. Great writeup, and congrats on your pending dadhood!

SowingSeason
03.28.19
Yeah The Grocery is amazing too...this whole album is ridiculously good. There's probably 5 songs that could have landed on this list.

bgillesp
03.28.19
Was wondering what your pick would be from this album. Idk which my favorite is but they’re all good

SowingSeason
03.28.19
My choices went something like this, keeping in mind that it has to be MO from 2010-2019:

1. The Silence
2. Lead, SD
3. Simple Math
4. Mighty
5. The Grocery

somewhere in the top 10: Pale Black Eye, I Know How To Speak, The Gold

Point1
03.28.19
The run of The Alien > The Sunshine > The Grocery is the best.

SowingSeason
03.28.19
That's a good run but I always felt it was a tad overrated. Easily the 3 weakest songs on the album besides The Parts.

TheSonomaDude
03.28.19
8 and 13 are prob only mine or somewhere near mine too. Good list

TheSonomaDude
03.28.19
on* mine

SowingSeason
03.28.19
Nice, thanks dude. I thought I'd have trouble by now coming up with songs but honestly there's just so many I want to talk about. Time, not supply, will be my limit with this list.

Skoj
03.29.19
YUP

JesusCage
03.29.19
Album is awesome, but this track is a 5 out of 5, the ending is so emotional. Once again, great pick.

furpa
03.29.19
Fuckin hell yeah man! Every time I listen to this album it creeps a little further up my "best albums of the decade" list. I fucking love it and this song is pinnacle Black Mile no doubt!

SowingSeason
03.29.19
definitely dude - and it should say something that I have this album ranked above Brand New's release from the same year....there's just something really special about it

ProjectFreak
03.29.19
I almost felt bad giving Go Farther In Lightness my AOTY nod that year over this

SowingSeason
03.29.19
2017 was a crazy good year. The National, Gang of Youths, Fleet Foxes, Brand New, Lorde, and Manchester Orchestra all released classics (IMO). And then there were still plenty of strong 4.5's like Alt-J, Perfume Genius, and Circa Survive.

neekafat
03.29.19
I think 2018 was even better for me personally (: BN is my only 5 for that year, though Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers are close

chaywa
03.31.19
I think there are only about 5 songs that reduce me to tears nearly every time I listen to them and 4 of them are written by Andy Hull. If I had to pick one song, it would probably be After the Scripture with The Silence a very very close second for the sheer emotional weight that closes of a truly spectacular album. The other 2 songs for those interested are Apprehension (a criminally underrated song off Simple Math) and 42 off Bad Books II which I find haunting af. Bad Books III is probably my most anticipated album for the rest of the year as it stands

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