Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Manchester Orchestra – The Gold

And now your editor will summarily ruin this song for you…


Will Adams: “The Gold” strikes an impressive balance between expansiveness and clarity, and it’s thanks to Catherine Marks’s production. The vocal harmonies are tied off with a twine of reverb, but the drums and guitars remain crisp and up-close. The contrast is enough to hold interest, but when it all falls away to leave Andy Hull, the song becomes weightless for a few fleeting seconds.

Alfred Soto: The drumming has caffeine in it, the singer manages a semi-convincing angst when he sings the chorus. So why don’t I give a damn? Blame the vanilla frosted donut production. 

Katherine St Asaph: For all the hand-waving freakoutery about women and their oh-so-distracting “indie voice” — a non-phenomenon invented by a BuzzFeed thinkpiece — one wishes there was comparable freakoutery about men who sing like Adam Young or, on verse two here, Gilbert Gottfried. Though the folk-sync track, which builds an over-dense cocoon of research around the same hollow “girls are crazy/shallow like day-drinking/only think they’re in love” condescension, wouldn’t appeal even if unruined.

Hannah Jocelyn: There’s one moment here, around 3:10, that wins me over every time. As Andy Hull sings “I believed you were crazy”, the “cra” continues in a long-decaying reverb, while -“zy” is just tossed aside, like slowing a sentence mid-outburst. It’s subtle but indicative of how thoughtful the production and lyrics are here. Catherine Marks’ mix may sound too slick for some, but there are enough flourishes and details to show how much effort was put into this song. I had no idea about the lyrics’ narrative until I read an interview where Hull explains the plot. Story songs can have completely unrelated inspirations, but this is a legitimately fascinating background — the titular gold is not a metaphor, but it does tie into larger themes of internal conflict and loss. Why don’t more contemporary bands use the gold rush as inspiration, anyway? There’s Coldplay in a whimsical deep cut, but not much else directly inspired by the time period. Now I want to read about gold rush miners. And become an A&R person that sets Marks up with every band.

Tim de Reuse: The verses feature measures of 6/8 in groups of three that tumble after each other, locked in place by a heavily syncopated groove and a two-against-three hemiola from the guitar: a metrically complex and structurally unusual arrangement for the genre, but an engaging space to let your attention jump through. It gets more straightforward towards the back half both lyrically and instrumentally, but all sounds snappy and clear, and despite the slightly overblown finale the momentum still carries through to the end. Semi-legendary producer John Congleton was apparently involved, which makes a lot of sense, since that guy could mix a mud puddle and make it sound clean.

Edward Okulicz: It’s certainly a fantastic-sounding track — very lean but also quite rich. The moment where the music cuts out to give space for the harmonised “I believed you were crazy” line is quite exquisite, and it’s something of a disappointment that when it recurs with the music in the background it’s all a bit much, and the rest of the song isn’t quite enough.

Reader average: [7.5] (2 votes)

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6 Responses to “Manchester Orchestra – The Gold”

  1. this thought didn’t quite coalesce in time for my blurb, but: it’s this disconnect, you know? this huge amount of very specific historical trivia as background, but then this gap of nothing and tropes directed toward the woman in the song. if someone has the time and ability to delve deep into the minutiae of land claims during the gold rush to write a song, then they also have the time and ability to give the woman in the song some interiority.

  2. this comes from being way too into this record but iirc the song is written from the perspective of a woman

  3. oh yeah, from npr: “In this session, we start with a performance Manchester Orchestra recorded on stage at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. It’s a song called “The Gold.” Hull told me it was inspired by The Homestake, a shuttered gold mine in Lead, South Dakota. He wrote the song from the perspective of a woman whose husband worked deep in the mine every day … a black mile to the surface.”

  4. Interiority complex.

  5. Just amazing to me that this band is still around and arguably more popular than ever. I was into Manchester Orchestra like 10 years ago around the time they + Brand New + Kevin Devine were always touring and received a lot of hype amongst a certain scene (rip my absolutepunk days). I became uninterested after their debut (which mostly doesn’t hold up imo) and this song is just them doing the same tricks (lyrically, musically, emotionally) as they’ve been doing since the beginning.

  6. @joshua idk i think they’re basically better than they’ve ever been. i don’t think they’ve ever made an album this gentle and loping. there’s also a really gorgeous suite of songs that blend into each other in the center of the album. admittedly i love their debut too and think it holds up fine