When Andy Hull’s Manchester Orchestra project emerged in 2005 they felt like a breath of fresh air. Their music had emotion, and power, but it didn’t feel the same as the majority of guitar bands at the time. Maybe it was the emo aesthetic with pop hooks or Hull’s honesty to talk about deeply personal issues or that their live shows went off, but they felt different. Since their 2006 debut ‘I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child’ Hull has released five more albums and EPs and scored a Hollywood film. Now Hull has return after a two-year break with a new EP ‘The Valley of Vision’.
The first thing you notice is that the majority of the guitars are gone. These have been replaced with synths and keyboards. It feels like a different project, although Hull has flirted with a more poppy sound in the past, but luckily those killer melodies remain. ‘The Way’ is the standout track on ‘The Valley Of Vision’. Opening with lethargic beats and a wonky melody it gracefully builds to one of the most memorable songs Hull has ever written. “Do you wanna find the antidote? Driving with the Holy Ghost. Holy death, the holy smoke. And does it start again? I’ve been drinking from a periscope.
Trying to watch my obstacles, See how fully I’ve been broke, And let me start again…” The chorus takes some rhyming liberties, but we’ll let Hull off as it’s great and has the potential to get lodged in your head all day. The rest of the project follows this blueprint. Wonky synth melodies bedrock the songs while Hull’s introspective lyrics float above them.
Despite the skewed pop vibes, the EP oozes emo sensibilities, which is what made the project so enticing in the first place. Unfortunately Hull’s vocal delivery are mostly centred and it would have been great to hear him bellow a few times. Of course, we have the older songs for that, notably ‘Pride’, but it feels like a missed trick not to just belt one out over some sombre soundtracks. Overall ‘The Valley of Vision’ is a strong release and shows that Andy Hull isn’t running out of ideas after almost 20-years. This is a melancholy, broody, moody and fun project to get lost in.
Words: Nick Roseblade