Simple Math is the third album by the Indie-Rock band Manchester Orchestra. The brilliant string arrangements, along with the introspective lyrics make this an album well worth checking out.
The opening track “Deer” starts with an acoustic guitar strumming in A Major, while a synth plays ambient noise in the background. It starts out very reminiscent of a simple folk song with lyrics that are mournful, but this sound lays down the emotional framework for the album. The next song “Mighty” is heavier and will appeal to the fans that got into Manchester Orchestra for songs like “Shake It Out” from their previous album. It has overdriven guitars playing in Drop D, while Hull’s voice is gruffer and more aggressive than in the previous track. Also interesting to note about “Mighty” is the incorporation of stringed instruments, like the violin and viola, which mesh beautifully and are kept at the perfect levels so that they do not overpower the song, something that tends to happen when traditional style orchestras are incorporated into a rock song.This harder rock style is continued throughout the album with songs like “April Fool” that has plenty of palm muted notes and cool licks. There is also a certain feeling of twang to the way that the lead guitarist plays his melody over the punkier sounding rhythm guitar.
Despite the hard rocking songs on the album the song that stands out the most is the title track “Simple Math” which is a bit more toned down, but much more emotive. “Simple Math” starts with the lead guitar playing a fairly simple melody while the drums play a simple bass and snare beat with a particularly dry sounding snare. The song continues rhythm guitar comes in playing clean and palm muted with the synth playing ambient sounds, while all of this is going on, a very simple violin and viola arrangement plays in the background, adding depth to the sound. The chorus to the song opens up more and lets the distorted guitars shine, but not overpower.
Overall this album paints a picture filled with questions through Hull’s lyrics, but it seems that the beautifully put together and uplifting instrumentation provides answers. With the use of trumpets, violins, violas, and traditional rock instruments Simple Math seeks to present a more mature Manchester Orchestra, but fails to move beyond the confines of the Indie genre and in some parts is overproduced. Simple Math is worth a listen, but fails to compare to their first album, I’m like a Virgin Losing a Child’s emotional rawness and grassroots appeal.