Grab Some Hope This Week

Manchester Orchestra Hope Album Review

We saw Andy Hull and Manchester Orchestra back in the summer. At the time he was hinting about a special recording the band was working on in the studio. It came as a bit of a surprise as they were just beginning to support their recent album release, Hope.

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The album is a reimagined version of their hit Spring 2014 release, Cope, and it’s a pretty damn cool idea. All 11 songs from Cope are re-recorded in a stunningly different and creative stripped down mode.  It results in quite the captivating listening experience.  The new album was released a few weeks ago digitally, but has just hit the streets today on vinyl and CD, which is great timing with Record Store Day just around the corner on November 28th.

I won’t spend a lot of time comparing this album to it’s predecessor, but as an example of the vast difference between the recordings, you only need to listen to the first ten seconds of the lead-off track and first single “Top Notch.” On Cope, the hit single kicks off with a powerful, loud distorted guitar riff; whereas on the new Hope version, the same notes gently ease out of a subdued piano. Listening to the two versions side-by-side presents a stunning, and intriguing juxtaposition. It’s just one example, but a good glimpse of the differences seen repeatedly between the two albums.

The constant theme throughout the new versions offered on Hope are fantastic, nicely accentuated vocals.  Andy Hull has never sounded better. His vocals are tender, passionate and dripping with vulnerability throughout the stripped down versions.  The superb harmonizing on the album is also a welcome surprise. The vocals never more impressive than on the a capella “See It Again,” a song that might make a few hardcore Manchester Orchestra fans cringe, but a brave creative version that worked for me.

Taking a song and stripping it down often reveals the majesty in the writing, and what we discover on Hope is that the songs loudly recorded under a haze of fuzz and distortion were pretty damn good; maybe better than we thought.

Highlights of the album include “Girl Harbor” a heartfelt rendition with pristine acoustic guitar work and a tremendously raw yet creative rendition of “Every Stone,” which is about 12 times slower than the hit version on Cope. My favorite track was a stunning string-driven version of “All That I Really Wanted.”

I’ll admit that not all of it is for everyone, and there will be some Manchester Orchestra fans who just won’t get it.  Me? I get it; I love it and think it’s one of the best albums of the year – and starting today, the vinyl and CD versions are available.  Pick one up and let us know your thoughts.

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