Manchester Orchestra has an illustrious career and the common courtesy to constantly remind us of their strengths. With the release of Cope, their fourth studio album, it is no surprise that all 11 tracks ooze personality and talent. Cope has a certain identity, though, that differs in terms of its place in Manchester’s discography. The album pushes emphasis on showcasing instruments and musical aspects, while providing a continuous “rock” feel. It does not slow down for very long and is consistently loud and rough.
However, the one track to provide a slight escape from constant rocking is, “Indentions”, which is the best track on Cope. The song starts simple with a beat, some guitar, and the occasional bass pluck. Eventually an electric piano rhythm is introduced and the melody is light and calm. When the vocals come in, the track becomes one between guitar and voice. However, the chorus requires a stronger presence, and the instruments suddenly burst, becoming louder and more forceful. This inclusion of such noise does not reduce the song’s atmosphere for pleasantness though. The lyrics are also clever: “I won’t leave indentions of me/I won’t leave intentionally.” There’s also this underlying theme of giving up with lyrics like, “doesn’t matter to me/I tell myself repeatedly/what a nightmare it seems/to honestly think anything.”
Another fantastic song is “The Ocean”, which starts with a faster, more upbeat melody. The instruments eventually crescendo into little spotlights of strong structures. They fall at the last moment, giving way to more lyrics, while the chorus is loud and accompanied by an intricate rhythm. The music descends in steps, which follows this song’s theme of “I give you to the ocean,” which is repeated often. These elements in combination give that allusion of letting go. The upbeat melody of the rest, however, seems like letting go is the best option.
Honestly, the entire album is composed of songs that follow their own strong theme. “Every Stone” starts off strong, but falls as the vocals come in and sing about stubbornness and loss. “Every stone I have thrown/has gone away,” is accompanied by fast guitar and a melodramatic rhythm guitar. The background sounds like a twister of white noise and space. That noise overpowers. “Girl Harbor” has a light, piano-heavy introduction but gains substance with the inclusion of a slower, strong collision of drums and bass. The vocals form according to that collision. The content matches with sass, “I don’t mean what I say/but I say what I mean to,” and “your last name is mine/and I feel no different.”
“Trees” remains busy for its entirety. The lyrics “I used to feel guilt/Now I just feel empty,” explain why the music is dark and rough. The music builds to a peak, where the vocals dwell in an intense melody. “Cope”, the closing title track, has an emphasis on vocals because the music slows enough to get the point across. The bridge is all instrumental though, filled with big beats of the instruments working together to influence the sound. An “ah ha!” moment comes from the lyrics, “and I hope if there’s one thing I let go/it is the way that we cope.” This song’s melodramatic process is apparent.
Cope is an example of Manchester Orchestra’s craft and determined mindset. They’ve established a level of understanding within the content and tone, but they’ve also created an album that pushes a constant atmosphere. Cope has strength. Cope is impressive. Cope is powerful.