*This review was composed by Marc Gary Gray and edited by Erik van Rheenen
Andy Hull is an exceptional songwriter, and what separates him from many of his just “good” peers is his ability to write in such a wide breadth of styles and levels of aggressiveness without losing any amount of proficiency or sincerity. In collaborating separately with Frightened Rabbit and Grouplove on this release, one can juxtapose the variety of music that Hull is adept at creating (not to undermine the obvious contributions of the collaborating bands and Mr. Hull’s bandmates in Manchester Orchestra).
The Manchester/Frightened Rabbit track, titled “Architect,” is actually a collaborative effort between only the primary songwriters of the respective bands (and a song completed without the two ever meeting one another in person). Almost impossibly, the song manages to be both sparse and lush. The sparseness comes from the skeletal instrumentation and lack of percussion, while the relentless fingerpicked acoustic guitar riff provides the momentum and drive that often lack from a guitar-and-voice-only approach.
As for the vocals, well…I know I can be prone to hyperbolic statements, but the vocals on this track are breathtaking. Scott Hutchison’s throaty, consistent delivery meshes perfectly with Hull’s nasal, loud-to-quiet delivery until each individual singer is nearly indistinguishable. The melodies and harmonies are sad and evocative without being mopey or obvious, and the song doesn’t linger, ending in a tidy four minutes. The most impressive part of this track is its balance: between the two songwriters, between the aforementioned fullness and sparseness, and between poetic ambiguity versus meaninglessness in regards to lyrics, “Architect” manages to walk the proverbial tightrope.
As implied in the introductory paragraph, the other song in question is something different entirely. Opposed to the two-man show that was “Architect,” “Make It to Me” is a boisterous little ditty, complete with note-dragging synth riffs, a variety of vocalists, and a perfect combination of Manchester’s indie rock prowess and Grouplove’s dance-infused goodness.