Culture Crash 21-15

Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

After seeing their song “Bang!” explode in 2020, reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, the band AJR has released its latest album, called “OK ORCHESTRA  5.”

AJR is famous for their intricate electronic production, almost meta lyrics and endless energy, and “OK ORCHESTRA” has all of that in spades. Still, the production remains the standout feature of the band’s music, with layers upon layers of samples, instrumentation, vocalization and sounds completely unique to the band’s discography.

Several of the songs on this album – such as “World’s Smallest Violin” and “Adventure is Out There” almost sound like tunes Pixar would use to score a film, mixing trumpets, pianos and a modern, electronic vibe.

Like they have in albums past, AJR couples their catchy, upbeat tracks with sincere, stream of consciousness-type lyrics. They sing about struggling to handle the cancelled plans that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic, wanting to explore the world, wishing an old buddy from high school would respond to a text, and other so-called “first world problems,” and that may turn some people off. I find it somewhat refreshing, though, to hear artists just being honest with what’s on their minds and making an effort to connect with their audience. Additionally, lyrics on songs like “Way Less Sad” and “Christmas in June,” which are about struggling with feeling optimistic and happy in a chaotic world and worrying about missing family milestones, respectively, do strike an emotionally honest note that I find in very few other artists music.

My early favorite track on the album is “Ordinaryish People,” which features the Blue Man Group of all guests, an hits with as much drum solo as you may expect on such a song. Overall, AJR couples its top-notch production with enough energy and effort to make OK ORCHESTRA a very fun listen, and something I will definitely be throwing on in the car this summer.

I’m Evan Rook

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