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Manchester Orchestra Give Us Their Five Most Defining Albums

Manchester Orchestra have just unveiled their sixth (!!) studio album, The Million Masks Of God. It’s a powerful and fitting addition to their already amazing catalogue.

The Million Masks Of God is a welcomed return to form. It’s the first we’ve heard from the group since 2017’s A Black Mile To The Surface and carries on with that unique soft hearted indie rock sound we know of Manchester Orchestra.

Charting the story of a man who encounters the Angel Of Death, who shows him various scenes from throughout his life, The Million Masks Of God soon took on personal connections for Manchester Orchestra, following the death of McDowell’s father after a years-long battle with cancer in 2019.

“My dad was a musician and our band’s biggest fan, and I can’t think of a more flattering way to honour him than to let him exist in a form of art he loved so much. It wasn’t shocking to hear what Andy had been writing; the way he writes, the real life around him will always trickle in.”

“For me, the album’s story isn’t just about the figure’s death, but the life. It’s unfortunate but unavoidable: in life, death happens, and it’s been happening forever. We’re figuring out how to exist with grief, but grief hasn’t killed humanity. We have to zoom out and see it as part of life.” – Robert McDowell

To celebrate the release of the long awaited album, Robert McDowell has given us 5 of his most defining albums. There are some winners in there!

5 Defining Albums with Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra

The album that started it all…

The most important record from being a kid, to being an adult, to being a musician has got to be Abbey Road by The Beatles. Growing up, they were on all the time – my dad was a huge music fan. It’s the type of record that I knew as a kid, that I thought I understood as a teenager. I can still listen to it time and time again and pick out new pieces.

That aspect of album making inspires me because it means that a record doesn’t just exist in 2021. It exists as long as people are able to consume it. Hearing the back half of that record, the medley they do of everything, is something that we’ve tried to do our best of with Black Mile and that we tried to do with this. You really can’t turn that record off once it hits a certain point in it.

The album (s) that serves as constant inspiration…

They’re two albums back to back by the band Grandaddy: Sophomore Slump and Someday. On those albums, the tracks work stand alone but they also work so conceptually well in the same universe, from a songwriting standpoint. There’s such a stigma around ‘success’ or ‘pop’ when you’re young – you think it’s taboo. What Grandaddy did was, they took pop melodies and catchy hooks, and made it this unique thing. It opened my eyes and made me be like, “Man don’t be afraid of anything because of predetermined judgements that you’re making on it, focus more on what’s inspiring you in the moment”.

Those records still, I use them whenever I’ve lost my centre in the studio, when I can’t tell how things sound any more. I put those two albums on and immediately know why I’m doing this and what things sound like. I can get back to work.

The album you think he wouldn’t like…

I’ve got a record, but then there’s also a song that isn’t on it…’Toxic’ by Britney Spears is also a song that I think completely breaks the mold. When you listen to that song it’s like, “Oh this is amazing!” I think there’s a lot of music where people in our world may write it off as something that isn’t good because of the genre it’s in.

I think Circus by Britney too…I remember an engineer that we were working with and myself, our wives were friends, and when that album came out we were texting like, “…Am I allowed to listen to this? Should I like this?” The answer is yes! I should like it, it’s a great record.

The album(s) he wishes he wrote…

There’s too many, it’s actually a tough one. I wish that I had written any single Elliott Smith song. If I could’ve done that, the way that his brain works…with simplicity and then making some of the most complicated progressions, melodies and lyrics seem accessible and digestible? It’s true genius, in my opinion.

The album that stands up as a game changer…

It sounds cheap to say but it’s just because it’s good: I think In Rainbows by Radiohead. After the break they’d taken…there’s a minimalistic approach on that album, to where a single thing can come in and have so much weight, because it’s now 20% of the song.

I think that album, coming from when it hit me and hit the band, we were in an angstier stage of our lives; it opened our eyes. There’s a longevity in this career if you continue to evolve and make changes. Sometimes they’re good changes, sometimes they’re bad, but you don’t know until you fully commit to something.

Written by Chris Lamaro