Manchester Orchestra had always prided themselves on their approach. The Atlanta-based band, led by Andy Hull and co-writer Robert McDowell (who is also Hull’s brother-in-law and lifelong friend), had spent their career challenging each other to build a poignant, exhilarating narrative with each new album and EP. The band had worked relentlessly to cultivate a passionate fan base the old-fashioned way: releasing music, making music videos, and touring (most recently with drummer Tim Very and bassist Andy Prince). Their previous long-player, 2014’s Cope, had even spawned a cover album of itself by its creators, an acoustic-reworking and reimagining of its songs with a heavily emotional bent that they called Hope. But now — thirty years old, stable, and a first-time father — Hull found himself facing a crisis of inspiration.
A Black Mile to the Surface is a bold record of vision and purpose, inspired by and dwelling in a sensory, cinematic experience. It’s a reinvention of sorts, both musically and personally—a sort of cosmic worldview shift. But in the end, the record’s themes are universal. On the stunning final track, Hull sings, “Let me watch you as close as a memory/ Let me hold you above all the misery/ Let me open my eyes and be glad that I got here.” Certainly, that’s a father speaking hope to his daughter, but it’s also a message to listeners. How do you write songs about being happy? With your eyes wide open, your loved ones in front of you, and the misery of the world waiting just outside the door.
A Black Mile To The Surface is out July 28 via Loma Vista Recordings. The album – features production by Catherine Marks (Foals, The Killers, Interpol), John Congleton (St. Vincent, Explosions In The Sky, Angel Olsen, Cloud Nothings), and Dan Hannon (Manchester Orchestra’s longtime producer).
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