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12/25/11 at 10:24 PM by Blake Solomon
Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math

For a few reasons I'm not prepared to discuss here, Manchester Orchestra's album Simple Math completely changed the trajectory of my year. And as the album's finale, 7-minute "Leaky Breaks," is playing its last notes through my headphones in an airport on my way home for Christmas, I can't help but just sort of look back over the album's tracklisting and find a memory for each and every song.

2011 saw me achieving a goal of mine that was over 5 years in the making. It was a year in which I maybe grew up more than I ever have before. It was a year that made me take quite an uncomfortable look at who I have turned into. "I never knew how capable I would become / I'm tired of talking to a wall / When I could talk to someone else." Those words, from "Pensacola," are hands down my favorite on the album. They are this year's essence, for better or worse.

I guess I was kind of at this place where I thought, "Ok, this is how me and my life are, and this is how it will always be." I thought that how I acted and responded to things was the only way I ever would. People never change or whatever. To a certain extent, I believe that to be true. And I also believe that, to a certain extent, people shouldn't change. So much of this life is bullshit, that all we ever really have is how we are. I don't even completely know what I'm saying, because I feel like this is so wishy-washy and back-and-forth and whatever else. But I suppose all I mean to say is, we should change because we want to. I'm certainly not an oppressed individual in anyway, but I found out this year that I could get what I wanted without having to make myself into something I'm not. Because if I did do that, would what that "different" person wants even be the same as what I want?

Andy Hull, on song after song, struggles with his identity and what it's doing to those around him. At times it's destructive, at times it's so lonely and miserable that you don't want to do anything but reach out and give the dude a hug. But it's always him. And I don't think it's selfish to say to the world, "Look, this is what I've been given and this is what I'm going to do with it." With songs that are forceful in an almost therapeutic way ("April Fool" or "Virgin"), Manchester Orchestra created an outlet that's a two-way street. You know after hearing an album like Simple Math that these dudes feel a lot better, and it's kind of like we're all getting fixed together.

It's still a little weird to admit this, but I don't think I would be where I am right now if I had not heard Simple Math when I did. And if that sounds like a gross exaggeration, perhaps that's because it probably is. But if there's one thing I wouldn't mind exaggerating about, it's this. I've never really felt the need to thank a band before, but basically, that's exactly what I want to do. Thank you, Manchester Orchestra. If the goal of this whole thing is just to be alright and be better, I'd like to think we've both achieved just that.

2011 was a weird year. 2011 was a difficult year. 2011 was a year I would never change.

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