September 19, 2014
by Ryan Barnes

When Cope was released by Manchester Orchestra on April Fools’ Day of this year, it wasn’t the record I had hoped it would be. It’s not a bad record by any stretch of the imagination, but the record I was sold on was something different from what was delivered. In interviews, Andy Hull described it as “something that’s just brutal and pounding you over the head every track.” I was hoping for a record sounding like the darkest moments of Simple Math, plundering the metallic growl of “Mighty” and “Virgin” and infusing a spaciness that would imply the influence of bands like Isis and Pelican.

That’s not what the album turned out to be. Fulfilling its promise of being blistering and heavy (at least as far as MO records go), Cope is still a catchy pop record. While the hooks are infectious, the huge production and layer cake of harmonies sometimes detract from the beautiful songs underneath.

Enter Hope. Released by surprise earlier this week, Hope is a reimagining of the songs on Cope. Whereas the original versions of these songs were enormous, crunchy arena anthems, Hope strips them down to their essence. Evoking the airiness of an orchestral performance, Andy croons over guitar and piano, sometimes even backed by brass and strings as well. I’m struck by the resemblance of Hope to The National’s last few records, High Violet especially. There’s a certain ineffable quality the two share, an aura of mystique and melancholy.

Hope has made me appreciate the source material more than I initially did. It’s as if a math teacher in Hull’s subconscious whispered to him, “show your work.” Now that I’ve been given breathing room to soak in the beauty of the words on this album, the subtlety and intimacy of the songwriting bleeds through in the original versions when I hear them. I’m excited to see these more thoughtful arrangements performed live later in the year, to say the least.