“Top Notch” – Manchester Orchestra


The last release from Manchester Orchestra was 2011’s Simple Math. The band has been hard at work in the past couple years since, whether touring steadily or writing their new album, Cope. A few weeks ago, they released a new track, “Top Notch,” along with a stellar black-and-white music video. The darker change of pace from both of these has given Manchester Orchestra’s sound new life and will be sure to please old and new fans alike.

What makes “Top Notch” successful is the way it expands fans’ expectations of the band. The track keeps all the things that people have come to really like then pushes them even further; Andy Hull’s excellent voice and lyrics fit perfectly with the stomping guitar and viciously metallic drumming. The chorus of the track is a great example of this: Hull explores the full range of his voice through each line while the instrumentation alternates between palm-muted guitars during the verses and all-out assault during the main riff. The song’s main riff is truly what opens the track. Its dynamic, catchy nature immediately draws the listener in on this gripping ride.

This is a bold step forward for Manchester Orchestra. Listening to “Top Notch” while watching the music video communicates this most clearly: the stock greyscale footage gets burned away, strip after strip. While all the eerie shots don’t seem to go together, the dissonance is appropriate and it’s hard to see the video being any other way. This is partially because of the timing of the shots. A lit match signifies the time between the verse and chorus; the faster, montage clips illustrate the intensity of the verses just as the guitars kick in, enthralling the audience in the video completely, trying to pick apart the details in each piece of footage.

Manchester Orchestra always does an excellent job at making sure each of their records has its own distinct sound and Cope appears to be no different. “Top Notch” and its accompanying music video provide a great look into what this new record will have to offer, and its new direction seems to be a perfect fit for the band at this stage in their evolution.


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