Manchester Orchestra
A Black Mile to the Surface



by SowingSeason STAFF
October 4th, 2017 | 42 replies

Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A black mile indeed.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that Simple Math’s opener ‘Deer’ had an existential revelation and found the meaning of life. That’s how A Black Mile to the Surface begins; this surge of optimism and certainty that simply can’t be dissuaded. As the verses ramp up at every turn, sounding more and more heavenly, it sets the stage for something greater than you could have imagined. Even grander than Simple Math, and more emotional than Mean Everything to Nothing. You’re skeptical, but you press on. The bar has been officially raised.

You come home to your wife, and there’s a positive pregnancy test sitting on the table. You glance at her inquisitively, she nods yes, and you break down in tears of joy. You attempt to keep your expectations in check, but you can’t help it. You begin to envision what it will be like with an extra chair at the dinner table. The euphoria feels limitless, and life suddenly feels more purposeful, as though this whole new dimension has been opened. ‘The Gold’ buzzes through your speakers and you can feel the band’s boisterous confidence swelling from beneath the surface. Hull, ever poignant, spits out “couldn't really love you any more, you've become my ceiling” and you choose to interpret it as not being able to love someone more than you already do. You immediately look at your spouse and echo that sentiment.

The next several weeks are a blur of excitement. There’s a sense of hopeful mystery, as you wonder just how much your life will change. It’s scored perfectly by ‘The Moth’; you can relate to the smooth, Silversun Pickups-styled production and overall mystique all too well. “Throw the man you used to be away”, Hull melodically instructs, before erupting into a nearly screamed “ahhh” with a palpable intensity that can’t quite fit into words. Black Mile has already won your heart, and you know that it is going to be one of those albums that stay with you forever; a byproduct of life events coinciding with its release and an uncanny relation to Hull’s lyrics.

You twist the key in the lock and exhaustedly push the front door open after a twelve hour day of work. Your wife is sitting on the couch with tears streaming down her face. You immediately rush to her despite already knowing in the back of your mind what’s wrong. No words are exchanged for several minutes and you just hold each other. You feel the entire weight of the world crashing down on your shoulders, and ‘Lead, SD' scores the giant void that opens in your chest: “This is temporary, I just heard I'm gonna be a dad, nobody knew today would be the day he loses it.” You break down, too.

The next several days are a blur of depression. You go through the motions at work, just waiting for quitting time. Your coworkers sense something is wrong but you admit nothing of the sort. You avoid confronting your inner turmoil and focus on your spouse, as the lines “I'm lost without a single clue as to where I'm headed, I look for her because without her I'm going to sink” play over and over again in your head. She’s driftwood, and you’re merely clinging on for dear life in the eye of the storm. The subtle piano notes of ‘The Alien’ feel like a self-induced calm designed to prevent you from losing your mind, while lyrical brushstrokes of “that’s alright” closing out the ever-warm “The Sunshine” feel like a reassuring hand on your shoulder. Somehow you know everything will be alright, even if you can’t bring yourself to think it at the time.

Then one morning during your commute, you completely break down during ‘The Grocery’ for no reason at all. You begin to carefully contemplate the lyrics of the song and pick yourself up, realizing how much you’ve been wallowing in self-pity. It shouldn’t take a gun in your mouth to realize how good you still have it. You take the line “I've been trying to find the right way to get out of here” and make it your mission statement. The awe-inspiring, swelling progression of the chorus to ‘The Wolf’ affirms that you’ve turned the corner. Deep down, you feel the hole in your chest beginning to heal over. You tell yourself that with more time and effort, you’ll one day regain that feeling of overwhelming hope and optimism once on display during ‘The Maze.’

You turn your thoughts decisively to the future. You spend the next several weeks feeling ashamed that you let yourself feel like the victim of something so temporarily disappointing, but let it serve as further motivation. The bare, echoed ‘The Parts’ is written as a memory from Hull’s perspective but you project his past into your own future: “give it thirteen years…both your legs up, you're crying…trying to push a life out from your belly.” You hear his Britney Spears reference and you chuckle a little bit, then realize it is the first time you’ve really smiled in almost a month. You bring flowers home to your wife, curl up on the couch, and remember how damned lucky you are to even have the opportunity to be disappointed in such a way. You find yourself almost singing aloud Hull’s touching end to ‘The Silence’ and Black Mile as a whole: “Let me hold you above all the misery…let me open my eyes and be glad that I got here.”

Three months later, you find yourself sitting at a keyboard trying to find a way to accurately express your connection to A Black Mile to the Surface. It’s at least the third time you’ve tried to do it, and you decide that the best way is to simply recount the memories you’ve associated with each song. As you begin to realize that it tells your story perfectly, you keep on going. It’s indulgent as hell but you don’t care, it just feels good to get it off your chest. ‘The Silence’ is in its waning moments as you finish typing and there’s this sense of resolution. You decide once and for all that it’s time to leave those memories behind and move on. A Black Mile to the Surface, indeed.

Recent reviews by this author
Muse Simulation TheoryImagine Dragons Origins
James Newton Howard The Nutcracker and the Four RealmsJulia Holter Aviary
Antarctigo Vespucci Love in the Time of E​-​MailmewithoutYou [Untitled]
user ratings (650)
other reviews of this album
Rowan5215 STAFF (4.8)
and I, felt love.... again...

DropTune (5)
A Black Mile to the Surface is a shining example of storytelling like never before....

Comments:Add a Comment 
October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

Sowing, you got me choking up. Thank you so much for sharing this. This is a remarkable work.

October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 5.0

Beautifully written. Beautiful album.

Digging: Cursive - Vitriola

October 4th 2017


Amazing review, thanks for that imagery

October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

i don't get it :/

Digging: Cult Leader - A Patient Man

October 4th 2017


pretty great read

Digging: Hissing - Permanent Destitution

October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 2.5

Another very good review of yours. I guess I need to listen to the album again since I did not find it as compelling as you do

October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 5.0

Absolutely moving. And you fleshed out the album's narrative in ways I simply had not picked up on. Amazing stuff. Much love for sharing. Thank you.

Digging: War (UK) - Come Cross

October 4th 2017


Great review I love the narrative. I really don't understand the fascination with this but I'm glad it has struck such a chord with y'all.

October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Really moving. Re-listening to the album now with these thoughts in mind.

October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 5.0

Lots of double meanings in the lyrics eh. The whole miscarriage thing completely flew over me but I cannot unhear it now. Cuts deep.

Green Baron
October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

isn't The Grocery about killing yourself in a grocery store not miscarriage

Digging: mewithoutYou - [Untitled]

October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 5.0

I was actually listening to the album while reading this, and wow; this is pretty moving, indeed. Great review, man.

Digging: Muse - Simulation Theory

October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

Same here, this gives a totally new perspective to the album.

Really touching Sow, might be your best review, or at least my fave of yours.

Digging: Rata Negra - Justicia Cosmica

Contributing Reviewer
October 4th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

amazingly personal review sowing. will relisten to this album with this in my mind and maybe it'll grow

Staff Reviewer
October 5th 2017


Album Rating: 2.5

This is really boring

Digging: Lil Peep - Come Over When You're Sober Pt. 2

October 5th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

Nowhere even close to a 5

October 5th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

I get it, me and my wife have gone through this recently

Staff Reviewer
October 5th 2017


Album Rating: 4.3

really powerful words sowing. your positive outlook and ability to move on are genuinely inspiring to me

October 5th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

Damn it Sowing you blessed soul

I don't know how you have the conveying-emotional-investment niche so on point but my god

October 5th 2017


Album Rating: 2.5

Album had much of the same issues as Cope for me: very little dynamic between songs. They all seem to have the same layered-vocal, ethereal major chorus that would be great for a song or two, but seems to be stuffed into almost every track on the album.

You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile


Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Site Copyright 2005-2017
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy