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Album Review: AJR drop new album ‘OK ORCHESTRA’ giving a new sound to every day music



Images by AJR

The New York City native, trio of brothers, AJR released their highly anticipated album OK ORCHESTRA on March 26, 2021. It has been a long two years since AJR’s last album Neotheater. Band members, Adam Met, Jack Met, and Ryan Met have always expressed unmatched creativity through their music. They are not one for the ordinary. OK ORCHESTRA is no exception. AJR have created an entire album backed by unique orchestral music bringing theatrics to everyday music. They continue to push the boundaries of the music industry all while providing a listening experience rather than the perception of just another song.

image by AJR

The opening track is an AJR classic. “OK Overture” is a mash-up of every song on the album, providing a preview to gain excitement from the listener. The overture begins with an overhead voice directing how to create a melody. Then the simplicity heard from the drumline transforms into an entire orchestra. In “OK Overture” there are various instrumental sounds similar to what would be heard at a musical or grand performance rather than a normal radio hit. After the hanging crescendo in the first three minutes, the song almost becomes silenced with a simple piano accompanied by a background choir and new lyrics unique to this track.

The second song on the album is “Bummerland”. The song starts with an upbeat drum track and strong vocals. The verses are more of a quiet but still upbeat continuation of the chorus. The lyrics of the song offer an interesting contrasting viewpoint to the instrumental accompaniment. While the combination of drums, handclaps, violins, and trumpets give the illusion of a happy upbeat song the lyrics tell a sadder truth. The lyrics “I hope my bank account gets so low even zeros, next year when I buy that first beer, I’ll be a god damn hero” in the second verse prove that life does not always go our way. “Bummerland” offers the ever so relatable feeling of being at the bottom waiting for your rise to the top. AJR connects with fans who may feel at their rock bottom by ensuring them “You’re only going up from here”.

“3 O’Clock Things” is a surprisingly politically-charged song. It begins with immediate vocals accompanies by a light piano accompaniment which then transforms into a repeated call that radiates through an old-school overhead speaker similar to something you would hear in an old Disney film. The song name truly explains the lyrical make-up of the song. Having thoughts in the early morning hours, often is not made of positive content. The lyrics in this song stand out among the musical accompaniment throughout the entire song. Some lyrics include “I keep debating if someone’s shy or if they hate me” and “We pretend we’re all amazing”. These are some of the life questioning thoughts bouncing around in everyone’s head at 3 am. AJR brings in the first political statement of this album in this song while keeping it lighthearted with lyrics like “If I keep on talking politics, I’m Hamilton without the hits”. This previous humorous statement stands as deep into political content as they get until ending the song with the bold statement “If your fucking racist then don’t come to my show”.

The next song on OK ORCHESTRA is the third single released from the album, “My Play”. This track begins with a repeating chord played on the piano and a light echo of voices before the start of the first verse. The lyrical content in “My Play” tells the story of childhood. AJR sings of putting on a play for their parents in their house. This is a childhood memory that extends in all young adults’ minds. Recalling a simple time when family was the center of everything in a world where parents never get a divorce is longed for by many teenagers and young adults. “My Play” consists of quiet verses to show vulnerability with a beat added in prior to the entrance of a strong chorus.

The fifth song is called “Joe”. At first listen one may confuse the lyrics to portray Joe in a negative light. However, in truth Joe is painted as a role model and inspiration in AJR’s song. “Joe” begins with a very unique sound that may appear a little uncomfortable for the listeners ear at first. As a piano-playing allegro is joined by a flute appearing to play a set of minor chords is mixed with a beat. This plays out for a very short time but is a key component to the song as it shows interest to the listener through AJR’s unique use of orchestral sounds. The lyrics paint Joe as someone you look up to and aim to be like from school that sticks with you despite not hearing from them in a long time. In fact, one may actually implement parts of this person into their own personality. The lyrics “I still use your jokes and they go great” prove that Joe is someone admirable. Everyone can relate to “Joe”. Let’s be honest no matter how hard we try there is always someone we aspire to be like because they seem cool, even if we wish there weren’t.

Images by AJR“Adventure Is Out There” starts with a beachy tone. While Jack sings the majority of the album, Ryan takes his turn on the verses of this track. “Adventure Is Out there” is a very lighthearted and fun song. The lyrical make up is simply a story of always losing socks. These lost socks may be anywhere as you travel through your live. The song suggests lost socks in Germany, past homes, and more. If you aren’t losing your socks you aren’t exploring the world. AJR turns a common annoyance of losing socks into a challenge of living life.

“Bang!” was the first single released of this album acting as a transition from the previous album ‘Neotheater’ to this new album, OK ORCHESTRA. The track begins with an extremely dominant repeated set of notes on the keyboard. When the vocals begin a set of snaps are added in. The honesty of everyday problems and occurrences truly shines in through this track. AJR masks the seriousness of this relatable song about the feeling of failing as an adult, in the way they do best, through humor. The humorous lyrics include “Put quinoa in my fridge, still I’m not feeling grown”, “Feel like I’m gonna puke cause my taxes are due”, “Did my password begin with a one or a two?”, and more. AJR proves they can make anything an instrument when they implement the clicks of a metronome into the background track. “Bang!” is sure to get stuck in your head as the lyrics and beat are overall too catchy not too.

Track eight is called “The Trick”. This song is one of the most unique on this album. It appears to have a mystery singer for the verses feature a distinct voice unnoticed on the rest of the album. “The Trick” almost acts as a long interlude breaking up the album. The vocals are projected throughout the verses only complicating the accompaniment when the chorus arrives. It features a constant strum of the guitar and a magical piano and string instrumental that gives the listener a feeling of enchantment. The lyrics are extremely honest as they tell the story of realization and change in the hardships of love. The song ends with the beautifully emotion-packed lyrics “Cause I love you it’s true, but if you’re doubting this, if you’re doubting I do, then oh my God I’m screwed”.

“Ordinaryish People” is the only song on this album that has a feature and a quite interesting one at that. AJR teamed up with the one and only Blue Man Group for this song. The track begins with a large, brassy orchestra sound adding in small choirs close to the start of verse one. The entire mix of instruments leaves the listener with a muddy instrumental while the lyrics shine through as prominent. “Ordanaryish People” stays on topic with the rest of the album as it tells the story of growing up. Unfortunately, we cannot be kids forever and we must mature. This often times comes at some sort of a cost to everyone. The outro of this song is interesting being a feature with Blue Man Group. A deep voice rings out with a message to draw the attention of the listener. After the voice says “Your attention please, please yell if you’re paying attention”, the instrumental background comes to the forefront, progressing at a fast speed. Right before closing with a return to the light sincere orchestral background music.Images by AJR

The tenth track is called “Humpty Dumpty”. This song radiates the cliché of having a fake smile. Let’s be honest, we have all faked a smile before. Clearly Humpty Dumpty is a popular children’s story where the main character gets broken and cannot be put back together again. AJR implements this theme in their song as well. AJR sings lyrics like “If you get sad then I’ll feel bad that I told you at all”, “I could fake it”, and “Imma smile right through it”. By nature, people appear to put on a façade and hide feelings of sadness or loneliness to relieve the burden on those around them. AJR is calling this façade out by giving listeners an outlet of having someone out there who feels the exact same way.

“World’s Smallest Violin” is the newest single off OK ORCHESTRA. AJR released a unique music video to compliment the release of their album. The lyrics tell a story of family and friends seeming like they have huge accomplishments to their name. All the while, you may not feel like you measure up. Lyrics in this song consist of “I can’t even finish school”, “I’ll blow up into smithereens”, and “So this could be the death of me”. Despite the potentially sad lyrics, the song in itself is a fun listen. The chorus ends with a combination of instruments that morph into each other. For example, the first instrument that plays the melody followed by the trumpet which is then challenged by the keyboard, all returning to the violin as a closer. This sound is one that proves AJR’s musical creativity as this concept has not previously been executed. The song then closes out with a fast spew of lyrics that speed up as the accompaniment instrumental reaches allegro.

The next song is “Way Less Sad”, another single off the album. “Way Less Sad” is a song everyone can relate too. When sadness and depression settle in people often tell those surrounding them that they are okay. It may take a very long time to reach the point of happiness that the person was once at. AJR normalizes responding to questions of “Are you happy yet” with “I’m way less sad”. Once again, this song houses deep lyrics with a happy coinciding instrumental. The trumpet that is consistently featured on this track changes the mood to make it blissful, while AJR sings “I’m A-Ok”, “I don’t wanna cry no more, so I set my bar real low”, “Shut up and just enjoy this feeling”, and “I’m not dead yet so I guess I’ll be alright”. These lyrics are encouraging as they urge the listener to enjoy every little moment and, in the end, they may just find themselves “Way less sad”.

“Christmas In June” is the closing track on OK ORCHESTRA. The instrumental similar to the opening track of a cute animated movie makes you smile as soon as it begins. “Christmas In June” is an apologetic love song. The lyrics tell the story of constantly putting work before a relationship. This concept is very often a wreaker of relationships. In today’s society work becomes a personality trait as people have the mindset of living to work. Through the song AJR discusses missing holidays and owing make-up holidays to the person they love, hence having Christmas in June. The apology sets in when AJR sings “You’re no longer gonna be the plan I miss, I won’t ever let you down”. However, the apology proves that work is a defining personality trait that gages success so this apology is not set in stone. “Christmas In June” ends the album with a sweet song that proves just how important music is to AJR.

Listen to OK ORCHESTRA here.

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