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Manchester Orchestra , Cold, Alkaline Trio, Separation

Kristi Kates - July 25th, 2011
Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math - Columbia
Opening with a direct message to fans “Dear everybody/that has paid to see my band…,” Manchester Orchestra’s latest carefully places some more delicate instrumentals - specifically strings - on top of their stacks of heavy, dense guitars, a definite plus for the album’s overall sound and presence. “Mighty” is perhaps the best example of this musical juxtaposition, as is the even catchier “Pensacola” and the title track. Both guitars and violins quiet to complement each other well on “Leave It Alone,” while “Apprehension” shifts the focus to the track’s percussion, with strongly personal lyrics throughout the set.




Cold - Superfiction - Eleven Seven Music
Heavy alt-rock and carefully-crafted storytelling might seem like an unusual combination, but it’s one of the best descriptions of Cold’s latest album. Frontman Cold (aka Scooter Ward) helms his bandmates well throughout this set, which presents dark instrumentals, distressed guitars, and weighty beats together with a wide range of poetically-executed tales. “The Ballad of Nameless” adds pensive piano to this mix, while “Wicked World” amps up the distortion on the guitars, even as the vocals take the “pretty” route; “Flight of the Superstar” sets the stage for “… Nameless” to sweep in and wrap the set up perfectly.




Alkaline Trio - Damnesia - Epitaph
The Trio decided to celebrate their 15th anniversary as a band with this collection, which serves as a best-of collection of their works over the past 15 years, a showcase for three new songs, and a way for the band to have a little fun revamping some of their older songs as unplugged/acoustic numbers. The acoustic guitars add depth and focus to the band’s “Mercy Me” and “Calling All Skeletons,” and new acoustic-based track “I Remember a Rooftop” is a pretty musing by lovelorn Dan Andriano. Elsewhere, acoustic pianos are added in to “The American Scream” and “This Could Be Love.” It’s a varied set and an enjoyable listen for fans.


Separation - Balance and Composure - No Sleep Records
Take a less-funky, earlier Chili Peppers, throw in a little Cursive and Brand New, and you’ve got Separation’s under-the-radar alt-post-hardcore sound. Got that? “Void” begins the album’s tracklisting with unadorned guitars, but things get a lot more punk fairly quickly; lead single “Quake” harkens back to the mid-’90s with its up-n-down arrangement, “More To Me” deposits several layers of vocals, one on top of the next; and “Patience,” despite the title, sees the band getting more aggressive. There are some slower-tempo moments here worth hearing, as well, namely “Progress, Progress” and the midtempo “Stone Hands.”


 
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