MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA – Simple Math (Sony)

Considering that this is Manchester Orchestra’s fourth album since 2007 I am quite surprised that I have managed to miss them so far. Still, if you have to come late to a new band then it is good to be able to start with their best work. ‘Deer’ starts things off, and my first impressions are that the distinctive vocals and country-tinged Americana remind me in part of Band Of Horses – another group that I came to late but who are now firm favourites. The song itself is a laid-back piece that emphasises the pastoral side of the band, but they show they can rock as well when ‘Mighty’ opens with a huge guitar riff. It continues to chug along quite nicely, and when strings make an appearance halfway through they are added in such a way that it makes the sound even heavier. ‘Pensacola’ has a slightly disjointed feel, as if it is two or three songs grafted together, but after a few listens it seems to work. ‘April Fool’, on the other hand, is an in your face rocker with a loping blues groove and insistent chorus. ‘Virgin’ is a grooving little rocker, with a repeated chorus that is sometimes sung by the band and later on by a child’s choir, with the riffing guitars counterpointing the children’s voices and giving the whole thing an eerie feel. The title track is an out and out indie rocker, and it is good to hear the band playing it straight for a change. ‘Leave It Alone’ is a bit more free-form, with verses and chorus merging together, while ‘Apprehension’ has a bit more structure to it – and yet both songs are equally enjoyable to listen to. ‘Leaky Breaks’ closes the album with a moody piece of indie rock, and my introduction to Manchester Orchestra is complete. I still can’t work out how I managed to miss a band this good for so long, but I am glad to have stumbled across them now so that I can keep an eye out for any future releases, and a trawl through their back catalogue is definitely on the cards. They are not from Manchester, and they are not an orchestra, but they make damn fine music.



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