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