When Empty Orchestra’s bio stated that they were oft compared to The Hold Steady, they weren’t kidding. Listening to “Broken Record”, the opening track on the Michigan septet’s newest LP, and “You Should See the Other Guy,” there were more than a few moments when I thought how much cooler “Heaven Is Whenever” might’ve sounded with this song nestled somewhere in the middle.
One More Time, All Together Now… fits many of the tropes you would expect from an Indie-Americana act; a large ensemble band, minor key verses and major chord choruses, interludes full of handclaps, boot stomps, and percussion. However, where they really succeed is the lyrical content. Songs like “The Ballad of Bulls Run” deftly captures the spirit of middle-American ennui. That desire buried in every small town heart for something more than what they’ve been dealt.
Stephen Wisniewski is a balladeer at heart, speaking through the loneliness of his subjects and using them to go straight for the listener’s gut with lines like “we all need somewhere to call somewhere to call home that’ll always be safe/there’s no such thing, there’s never been no such place.” Listen to “Black and Blue” late at night and try not to feel completely gutted. I dare you.
While it is a fun record, sometimes those similarities to The Hold Steady can be a little jarring, especially on the more upbeat rock oriented songs. It was hard for me not to imagine Craig Finn’s head-cold cadence floating through “Echo’s Bones.” There are moments when it feels a bit too much like soft Titus Andronicus, but they’re few and far between. One More Time, All Together Now… missteps (The Audience) and all is a lush record with a lot of great ideas that would fit comfortably with the new Americana canon.
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