June 29, 2021

Amplified in the Silence; Top 25 Manchester Orchestra Songs

As I transition from writing a top 25 list for Jimmy Eat World, to doing the same thing for Manchester Orchestra, I became aware of a unique distinction between these two bands. Jimmy Eat World I would call a "song" band. Meaning they write fantastic singles, and after one or two spins of one of their albums it is easy for me to pick my favorite song or two from the album. (I don't even know if Manchester Orchestra has ever had a single, but I did hear "The Gold" in Kroger last month so maybe that counts?)

Manchester Orchestra is an "album" band. I have had The Million Masks of God for a couple months, listened to it countless times, and I struggle to even pick what song I like best. Looking over Manchester Orchestra's discography, this trend continues. The band does a fantastic job of writing and recording full albums with perfect opening tracks, closing tracks, sequencing, connected songs, etc.

The other distinction between these two bands is that their "jumps" came at completely different points in their career. For Jimmy Eat World, I would say their "jump" came after Static Prevails (1996), which is either their debut or second album depending on who you ask. They made remarkable improvement as songwriters and musicians with Clarity (1999) and then have remained consistently strong for two decades.


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Manchester Orchestra's "jump" came much later in their career. They released four full-length albums between their start as a band in 2004 and 2014's Cope. Manchester Orchestra was so all over the place in that first decade that they almost lost me as a fan after a fairly bad 2010 concert at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta (see photo by me above; full gallery of photos of that show with Thrice here.).Then came the insane jump to A Black Mile To The Surface. Black Mile is so good one could argue every single song on the album is better than every single song the band had released previously.

In fact, writing a top 25 list for Manchester Orchestra is almost pointless because one could easily argue that the 22 songs that represent A Black Mile To The Surface and The Million Masks of God are 22 of the best 25 songs the band has ever written, recorded, and released. But I have done my best to include songs from the whole career.

I must mention that Andy Hull is a PROLIFIC songwriter who writes for far more than just his primary band. He has released so many outstanding songs for Right Away, Great Captain, Bad Books, and more. But my list will be Manchester Orchestra songs only.

One of the fun experiences with Manchester Orchestra over the last few years is that my whole family of five has grown to love them. My wife has absolutely fallen in love with them because of Hull's profound and deep lyrics, and my 13-year-old son is actually the one that prompted me to write this list.

I am thrilled for the return of concerts, and just a few days ago I bought 5 tickets to see Manchester Orchestra play at the Fillmore in Detroit next March. It is an all-ages show, and will be the second rock show my three kids get to attend; the first is Middle Kids at The Loving Touch on October 1.

I'm not going to rank all the Manchester Orchestra albums, because it's almost pointless and there is very little debate among fans. A Black Mile To the Surface is #1, and The Million Masks of God is probably #2 even though it was just released this year. The only place I might vary from others is that I would actually put I'm Like A Virgin Losing a Child at #3.

Amplified in the Silence; Top 25 Manchester Orchestra Songs:

25. "I've Got Friends" (4:58) from the 2009 album Mean Everything To Nothing



24. "I Can Barely Breathe" (4:59) from the 2006 album I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child


23. "Sleeper 1972" (4:08) from the 2006 album I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child

22. "Top Notch" (3:22) from the 2014 album Cope

21. "The Only One" (2:39) from the 2009 album Mean Everything To Nothing

20. "Pensacola" (3:36) from the 2011 album Simple Math

19. "Apprehension" (4:34) from the 2011 album Simple Math

18. "The Neighborhood is Bleeding" (2:49) from the 2006 album I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child

17. "Simple Math" (5:04) from the 2011 album Simple Math

16. "Bed Head" (4:05) from the 2021 album The Million Masks Of God

15. "The Ocean" (4:22) from the 2014 album Hope

14. "Every Stone" (3:39) from the 2014 album Cope

13. "Keel Timing" (4:18) from the 2021 album The Million Masks Of God

12. "Virgin" (4:28) from the 2011 album Simple Math

11. "Annie" (4:29) from the 2021 album The Million Masks Of God

10. "Angel Of Death" (5:48) from the 2021 album The Million Masks Of God

9. "Where Have You Been?" (6:17) from the 2006 album I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child

8. "Telepath" (2:29) from the 2021 album The Million Masks Of God

7. "The Maze" (2:58) from the 2017 album A Black Mile To The Surface

6. "I Know How To Speak" (6:00) from the 2018 single
 

5. "Obstacle" (3:43) from the 2021 album The Million Masks Of God

4. "The Gold" (4:33) from the 2017 album A Black Mile To The Surface

3. "The Silence" (6:59) from the 2017 album A Black Mile To The Surface

2. "Architect" (3:54) from the 2013 single, co-written and recorded by Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit

OK, I'm going to cheat here. My favorite Manchester Orchestra song is "The Grocery", but it is the third in a three-song sequence that is spectacular, and hard to break up:

1. "The Alien" (5:29) and "The Sunshine" (1:57) and "The Grocery" (5:12) from the 2017 album A Black Mile To The Surface



June 28, 2021

Turn Off the Radio; Top 25 Jimmy Eat World Songs

Jimmy Eat World 2001

Photo by me, July 2001, 99X Studios, Atlanta, Georgia

While I haven't written any top 25 lists in quite some time, I've had them on the brain--it is more of just the reality that I am not blogging much at all. I have brainstormed lists for Stavesacre, Manchester Orchestra, Patty Griffin, and Middle Kids in recently years, but it was a Twitter discussion that prompted me to finally put my top 25 Jimmy Eat World songs down on paper. I often post top 25 lists to refute other lists I read online (especially in the case of Death Cab and Thrice). This one is not that--it is just my favs.

I narrowed it to 25 songs and created a YouTube playlist months ago, but didn't get around to actually sorting the 25 songs "in order" until today. (I can already tell you Manchester Orchestra is coming next, because there are few artists I listen to as much these days, my whole family likes them, and my 13-year-old son continues to ask and prompt me on what my favorite Manchester Orchestra songs are.)

First of all, to recap, here are the top 25 lists I have published previously:

What if Lu had lived? Top 25 Poor Old Lu Songs (2017)
Please Don't Kiss Me Top 25 Sixpence None the Richer Songs (2017)
For the Love of Guitar Top 25 Aaron Sprinkle Songs
(2017)
Don't Be Defeatist Top 25 Eisley Songs
(2017)
Farther Than I Can See Top 25 Thrice Songs
(2016)
Farewell Walla Top 25 Death Cab for Cutie Songs (2014)
It is surprising I waited so long on a Jimmy Eat World list, because it is their lyric that inspired the name of my blog (and originally paper zine) back in 1999:
"Imitate and water down
Selection breathes on its own
Till we crash I'll write it out
Selection breathes on its own
Make them open the request line
Let selection kill the old
Turn off the radio"
As I've done previously, I'll start by ranking my favorite Jimmy Eat World albums:
10. Jimmy Eat World (1994)

Does this album count? I usually don't include it as I think of it more as rough demos, and the band rarely acknowledges its existence. I only have MP3s I downloaded off Napster back in 2000 or so and can't remember the last time I have listened to it.
9. Damage (2013)

Really despise this album; I can't even pick a single song on it I like. Felt so lifeless and forced to me at the time. A strange blip in a consistent career.
8. Chase This Light (2007)

Despite how low I have it ranked, I do enjoy this album, but I feel it was sequenced incorrectly and some non-album tracks should replace some songs that were included.
7. Integrity Blues (2016)

Was a big return to form for me; was concerned the band was done after Damage.
6. Invented (2010)

Was impressed by this album at the time, but rarely revisit it as a whole.
5. Surviving (2019)

My initial impression, that holds up after two years, was how great this album is. We'll see where it stands in a decade.
4. Static Prevails (1996)

I discovered Jimmy Eat World with Clarity, and then immediately went out and bought this CD. Love the aggression that understandably passed with time.
3. Bleed American (2001)

I had the unique experience due to file-sharing services of hearing all the demos for this album before it finally dropped. I was actually putting the demo of "The Middle" on mix tapes/CDs in early 2001. Won tickets and saw Jimmy Eat World do a live studio performance for 99X in Atlanta the day this album was released.
2. Futures (2004)

I was blown away by this album when it dropped, and that feeling has never gone away. I totally understand anyone that has this as their fav Jimmy Eat World album.
1. Clarity (1999)

No other Jimmy Eat World album comes close for me, and this is a top-10 album of all-time for me. I discovered the album and band a couple months after it was released, and I've never stopped listening to it frequently. I have taken a bunch of notes with the intention of writing an essay about it, but still haven't gotten a draft finished. Someday!

25. "Episode IV" (4:29) from the 1996 album Static Prevails

24. "Movielike" (3:48) from the 2010 album Invented

23. "Anderson Mesa" (5:15) from the 1996 album Static Prevails

22. "Delivery" (3:13) from the 2019 album Surviving

21. "World Is Static" (3:57) from the 1996 album Static Prevails

20. "555" (3:41) from the 2019 album Surviving

19. "Gotta Be Somebody's Blues" (4:46) from the 2007 album Chase This Light

18. "The End Is Beautiful" (4:25) from the 2016 album Integrity Blues

17. "Disintegration" (7:44) from the 2005 EP Stay On My Side Tonight 

16. "Sure and Certain" 3:36 from the 2016 album Integrity Blues

15. "Your New Aesthetic" (2:41) from the 1999 album Clarity

14. "Coffee And Cigarettes" (3:46) from the 2010 album Invented

13. "Jen"(3:00) Officially unreleased, but was on the original version of the 2004 album Futures

12. "The Most Beautiful Things" (3:52) from the 2000 Jebediah Split EP

11. "Here It Goes" (3:23) from the 2007 album Chase This Light

10. "Futures" (3:58) from the 2004 album Futures

9. "Polaris" (4:51) from the 2004 album Futures

8. "Goodbye Sky Harbor" (16:11) from the 1999 album Clarity

7. "Hear You Me" (4:45) from the 2001 album Bleed American

6. "If You Don't, Don't" (4:33) from the 2001 album Bleed American

5. "Lucky Denver Mint" (3:50) from the 1999 album Clarity

4. "The World You Love" (5:01) from the 2004 album Futures

3. "Sweetness" (3:40) from the 2001 album Bleed American

2. "23" (7:24) from the 2004 album Futures

1. "For Me This Is Heaven" (4:06) from the 1999 album Clarity

YouTube playlist; selected the best live video performance I could find for each song when possible: