Sound — 7
Somewhere between the crass textures of garage-band rock and post-grunge and the fluid lines of modern synth-pop lies Manchester Orchestra whose second full-length album, Mean Everything To Nothing is a marriage between Smashing Pumpkins' turgid tirades and the air-brushed cinders of Death Cab For Cutie. The band's assets include the coarse timbres of lead vocalist Andy Hull, the sleek melodic clasps of keyboardist Chris Freema and the billowing swells of guitarist Robert McDowell as the band's rhythm section of bassist Jonathan Corley and drummer Jeremiah Edmon brand the melodies with heated stomps. Pride is the apex of the album's post-grunge ruggedness as Hull's vocals rip and tear through the guitar shreds like a wild boar, and then lightens up in the folksy pop atriums of I Can Feel A Hot One. The grizzly coarse textures of Hull's vocals grill into the broiling chord progressions of Shake It Out like a hot poker, and then glides with a velvety touch along the voluminous chorus peaks and gentle troughs of My Friend Marcus with a clicking metronome liken to Elbow moving in the undertow. The ribbons of synth-pop strips and vibrating guitar clips wrapping around the title track climax and flutter lightly creating dynamics in the track's melodic wingspan before segueing into the fibrillating trembles and roving cymbal crashes that tumble in and out of the arcades along The River, and then closing out with the soft folksy acoustics sliding across Jimmy Whispers.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics can be thoughtful like in Jimmy Whispers as Hull reflects, Fear keeps you hiding at night We're brothers and that's alright or the words can be provocative like in Shake It Out when Hull confesses, A bigger mess that you can't fix. And sometimes the verses express a need to find redemption for one's sins like in The River where Hull cries out, Take me to the river and make me clean again / Oh my God. The lyrics confront scars and the experiences that cause them, and holds the marks in reverence like they are badges of courage. There is no shame in confronting pain or reason to hide the hurt, only acceptance can be found in Hull's words.
Overall Impression — 7
The music is effective in making the listener see through the disguises that people put on to hide from painful experiences. The songs run the gamut from tender croons to scorching rants, sometimes even performed in the same song. It is an album that shows it's heart on the surface. The band makes a valiant effort to be as honest and true to themselves as possible, and it works. Produced by Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, My Morning Jacket, The Raconteurs) in conjunction with longtime friend and producer Dan Hannon and the band, Mean Everything To Nothing is one of those moments in a band's life that makes them proud whether the album sells or not.