OK Orchestra is another bang! for AJR

Gwyneth Landaker

AJR has wrapped up their trilogy of albums with OK Orchestra as they finish this chapter of childhood and move on to adulthood while, as they would say, going out with a bang!

The brothers have returned to The Click series one last time as they close it out into a trilogy. Consisting of The Click, Neotheatre, and now OK Orchestra, the trilogy focuses on the brothers’ lives as they voice their opinions and their problems that range from poor mental health or racism to taxes. Their first album in the trilogy was full of hits such as “Come Hang Out” and “Weak,” followed by Neotheatre that did not do as well. Now the band goes out with a bang as they close out the trilogy with their best album yet.

OK Orchestra focuses on the theme of navigating the adult world as the brothers begin to grow up and face the problems and emotions that come with it while leaving their childish nature behind. This naturally makes OK Orchestra tackle “darker themes,” as said by the brothers. The lyrics “And I can’t be eighteen my whole life,” perfectly captures these young men as they cross from a teen world to an adult world and face the unexpected changes that come with this sudden adult world.

The album is full of their familiar harmonies and high-pitch vocals mixed with their marching band melodies, now with an addition of synth and electronics. The brothers dig deep into their minds as they vocalize their thoughts and feelings into one of their most emotionally open albums.

The band’s signature overtures return as the album kicks off “OK Overture,” consisting of every song found on the album as it overloads the listener with titanic blasts of brass and a sweet melody of classically trained strings as they meld melodies and blend the lyrics with electric guitars and keyboards. While not a great song to listen to on its own, it is a perfect showcase of the talent these three exhibits.

“Bang!” is the song that started it all as it was their first single back in February 2020, instantly becoming a hit. In fact, it recently topped the charts, setting a new record on Billboards for the longest trip to the top at 43 weeks, beating the previous record of 36 set by “Breakeven” by The Script and it’s not hard to see why.

Full of expressive brass that seems to sing the lyrics itself and powerful percussion, it instantly fills a room with a Bang! There is no song like it out there and can only be described as a circus of musical theatre. AJR said their album was heavily influenced by Broadway because their favorite part of it “is that you can just belt out something loud and be very proud of it and not worry about being too heartfelt.”

“The World’s Smallest Violin” is certainly the most intense in theme, yet has the most light-hearted, hand-clapping melody.

Lead singer Jack rants about problems associated with adulthood but continues to compare it to others with bigger problems, such as his grandfather who fought in World War II. He recognizes his issues are minuscule compared to the world as he says, “Somewhere someone’s got it worse.” However, he continues, “I kinda feel like two things can be sad.” He compares himself to a tiny violin who “really needs an audience” to vent to, focusing on the idea that everyone needs a person that will listen to them. The end of the chorus features a beautiful duet of a violin and trumpet as they perform the chorus once more, dancing through the chords as they fill the space.

As the beat speeds up and a banging of timpani ensues, it transforms this happy-go-lucky song to a panicked state of questions, perfectly simulating the panic in one’s mind. This song is a perfect mix of thought-provoking lyrics and clever composition through the duets shared by instruments.

The band ends the album with a slower melancholy song, “Christmas in June.” Balancing work and life is difficult, and the band recognizes this as they sing about personal relationships combating work schedules, singing the key phrase, “In case I miss it, can we do Christmas in June?” Filled with an upwelling of strings and a smooth trumpet, it gives it the familiar, yet odd sound found in the music used in Monster’s Inc.

At first, this song seems out of place and is one of the weaker ones; however, with a second listen, it is obvious that it is one of their best. They strip away the big charade of instruments and autotune, making it a more acoustic sound. The instrument that stands out the most is the clarinet, which is not a typical instrument used in alternative music. It gives the song a unique sound as it sweetly sings the melody throughout the song whether in the background or as a solo. It is also accompanied by a beautiful swell of strings and a simple acoustic guitar.

With “Christmas in June” being their most honest song, the acoustic sound represents how they have really stripped away their filter and are speaking from their mind, making it the best song on which to end the album.

Although unpredictable and unexpected, this album is a great improvement to their already three other amazing albums. The more you listen to the album, the more allusions, clever wordplay, and composition can be discovered. It’s an album that will give the listener a new experience every time they hit the play button.