AJR’s “OK Orchestra” is an attempt at therapy for America

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Released on March 26, “OK Orchestra” focuses on the theme of coping with past issues. Songs like “The Trick,” “Humpty Dumpty” and “Joe” contribute the most to this, passing on messages of learning not to care what people think and learning to get back up when you fall.

Along with dealing with the past, lead vocalist Jack Met sings about coping with past experiences and learning and growing from them as well, such as in the song “Ordinaryish People” feat. Blue Man Group. The song brings a more amplified version of the AJR sound that people expect. Big horns and brass mix with the harmonies of the three brothers — known for their outlandish concepts in making sounds — to create an experience pleasant to the ears despite how busy the song appears.

Most of the sounds on the album don’t diverge much from anything we’ve heard from AJR since their second album “The Click” came out in 2017.

However, unlike in their last album, “Neotheater”, which came out in 2019, “OK Orchestra” stays upbeat for the whole album. Whereas “Neotheater” had slower parts throughout it, with songs like “Dear Winter” and “Turning Out Pt. ii”, AJR keeps the new songs consistent in tempo and doesn’t slow very often.

The only song that differs much, “Christmas in June,” comes as the album’s final track. The ballad describes a relationship between two individuals, in which the singer falls in love but fears messing up the relationship. The song touches on the entire album’s themes of the past, pain and coping with trauma, providing a great way to end this album, especially when Jack Met says he just wants to be happy in a relationship. Something everyone can relate to.

The album gained traction before, as AJR released songs like “Bummerland,” “My Play,” “Bang!” and “Way Less Sad” as singles ahead of the album: and for good reason. These three are some of the better songs on the album and sound the most like typical AJR songs. I have no complaints about them, except they feel like songs the band was paid to record instead of songs the band members really wanted to make from the heart.

The biggest complaint I have about this album is how it sounds very commercialized. It sounds like an album made to play in commercials on TV, as we’ve already seen with “Bang!” Adam, Jack and Ryan Met have come a long way from recording in their apartment in New York, but this album just doesn’t feel as authentic as some of their past songs and albums.

I also found some of the songs on the album easy to forget, even after the first and second listen all the way through. Of course, not every song will stand out on an album with a song that peaked at number eight on the Billboard’s Top 100 chart. The songs that stand out really stand out, and the ones that don’t really don’t, as in the case of “3 O’Clock Things,” “Adventure Is Out There” and “World’s Smallest Violin.”

Not for everyone, AJR has a very unique and distinctive sound not many others can replicate. For an album conceived and produced in the middle of a pandemic, it sounds very well done. AJR conveys the themes and purpose behind the album very nicely as well. If you are a fan of AJR, you will most likely enjoy this album. If you are not an AJR fan, it may be a little difficult to look past the bigger singles released ahead of the album to fully enjoy it.

This is by no means a bad album. The fact that they wrote this in the middle of a pandemic speaks the most to its sound and themes. People face a world of uncertainty and suffering. AJR has come forward with an album purposefully to calm the nerves of those who don’t know what to expect. But, for those who don’t care what comes next, now you know to go out with a “Bang!”

Final Verdict: 8/10

Colin Settle is a junior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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