With Manchester Orchestra’s previous two albums, the band has certainly proved that they can deliver. Mean Everything to Nothing reiterated their strengths, building on debut album I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child’s simple, powerful sound.
However, their third album, Simple Math, sounds like a melting pot of different elements encompassing everything from children’s choral voices to angry metal sounds. Despite the fact that their band name implies a somewhat orchestral sound, they have never included string instruments and this album is certainly not the time for such fruitless and unnecessary attempts. “Might” and “April Fool” sound like identical angry songs, and the beginning of “Apprehension” reminds of a watered down version of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Did I Let You Know”. The combination of children’s voices and passionate lyrics on “Virgin” comes off as macabre and violent, befitting a horror movie soundtrack.
Regardless of the disappointing songs, the album redeems itself through the calming tones of “Deer” (reminiscent of their song “I Can Feel A Hot One”), “Pensacola’s” upbeat rhythms, and their title track “Simple Math”, which provides a pleasant enough melody. With gratifying melodies and lyrics, “Leave It Alone” and “Leaky Breaks” are definitely the best tracks on the record. Adam Hull’s strong voice does not disappoint, and the depth of the lyrics makes the album a much more personal affair. Given that the work of all talented musicians will eventually evolve and show growth, Manchester Orchestra should incorporate a sound that feels natural to them instead of integrating all the possibilities onto a single record.