Manchester Orchestra: ‘HOPE’ Album Review

When Manchester Orchestra released COPE this past April, they wanted to create a gritty, completely in-your-face rock album. And that they did. However, what makes Manchester Orchestra incredibly unique is their ability to create heart-wrenching soft pieces (i.e. “I Can Feel A Hot One”) as well as rougher, head-bangers (i.e. “Shake It Out”). Both sides of them are essential and true to their sound. HOPE is exactly what needed to happen in order to set a balance in Manchester Orchestra’s realm. HOPE is a re-imagined, stripped down version of COPE. It contains every song off COPE, but passed through a cleansing, bare-bones filter. HOPE was digitally released on September 16th, but will get a physical release come November 18th via Loma Vista Recordings and Favorite Gentlemen (Manchester Orchestra’s own label).

What works very nicely with HOPE is that it’s an album that stands completely on its own, but also invokes a new breath when pinned alongside its precursor. Although HOPE is softer and broken down to its core, it doesn’t lack energy. Some songs even carry a little more fire than the louder versions. “Choose You” has an immense chorus, and when it runs on its core foundation it’s equally, if not more intense and emotionally invigorating. Its piano melody is visceral, and when teamed with sliding guitar work, it pays off beautifully. The soft reworking of “Every Stone” carries a heavy weight on its back that you can hear in Andy Hull’s downtrodden vocals, which channels an entirely different tone than on COPE.

For any longtime fan of the band, HOPE is a fundamental piece of their discography. However, with the release coming so quickly after its predecessor, one may have wanted them to intertwine the two from the beginning or mix the two distinct workings into one, full, complete idea. “The Mansion” and “All That I Really Wanted” simply don’t hold much merit on either album. The addition of a violin on the latter works better on other songs, and doesn’t elevate it to the same heights as their other material. Also, “Cope” is a wonderful, tenacious closer on the initial album, but it is too mopey and ill fitting to end HOPE with.

However, the new version of “Trees” is a delightful rendition that highlights why Manchester Orchestra needed to make this album in the first place. Every word sung by Hull is clear and emotionally cutting. The newly added lyric, “It’s okay to lose a limb when they get too heavy,” proves Hull’s remarkable talent with his words. Hull’s gorgeous vocals coupled with light strings and a modest piano melody keep the song composed yet powerful. “Indentions” works very similarly and emphasizes their uncanny ability to pick apart an alright song and craft it into something seemingly different and new. “The Ocean” on COPE is quintessential Manchester Orchestra, and, somehow, they managed to rehash it as equally vital to their catalogue of great rock ballads.

COPE was a really big palate cleanser for our band, and adding HOPE exhausted our resources of what we wanted this record to possibly be,” said Andy Hull. “It’s the best of both worlds and frees us to go to weirder terrain in the future.” HOPE opens up the wide expanding road ahead of Manchester Orchestra as it connects their new, firmer sound with their earlier, fragile roots.