Recommended Tracks: 3 O’Clock Things, Adventure Is Out There, Ordinaryish People
Artists You May Like: COIN, The Wrecks, Judah & the Lion
They may not have planned to make an album last year, but after the pandemic put an indefinite pause on tours and shows, AJR had to find some way to occupy their time. The brothers had more than enough material to create a third studio album, and nothing to lose – every chance they take gets them higher on the charts. Using their metronomes and their creative minds, AJR set to work on OK ORCHESTRA, and ended up with another record that has us perking our ears and tilting our heads.
As is customary of AJR, there is a fine balance between embracing adulthood and not being able to let go of childhood innocence on this album. On “My Play,” for instance, Jack’s thoughts on love are mixed in with the days when he wore a cape, jumped on the couch, and performed a play that he worked “really really really really” hard on for his mom and dad. There is also “Joe,” which explores that inexplicable desire we have to still impress old classmates that we do not even see anymore. These youthful memories are definitely random, but in the end, they help us better figure out who we are today.
Of course, there are times when the brothers get serious and mention more significant issues – even if those issues are concealed by upbeat music. From feeling like an embarrassment on “World’s Smallest Violin” to wanting more ways to feel better on “Way Less Sad,” AJR tell us how it is, despite not knowing why it is. The most pensive of tracks, though, is “3 O’Clock Things,” where Jack declares, “It’s too hard to tell if anything’s real or not.” In the end, these tracks do not have us fooled; life is not always hand-clapping, jazzy melodies, and rhythmic breakdowns.
One of the more telling tracks on OK ORCHESTRA is the closing track, “Christmas in June.” Sure, the world of a fresh, successful band seems too perfect – they travel the world, play music all day, and are adored by loads of fans. But in order to have this life, they sacrifice personal moments with those they love. Jack sings, “Hold on love / A little longer while I get the album done / And if I get to tour it, wouldn’t that be fun / But that’s one less month with you.” The beauty and tragedy of the track really mess with you, but it would not be a true AJR album is the closing track didn’t shed light on how devoted the brothers are to the band.
All in all, OK ORCHESTRA is like an older, showier sibling of The Click and Neotheater. The choruses are bolder, the music more vibrant and open, but the stories are as expressive as they have always been. Fans might be disappointed in the lack of a “Turning Out Pt iii,” as AJR’s previous albums featured a “Turning Out” and a “Turning Out Pt ii,” but the tracks on OK ORCHESTRA more than make up for its absence – by the end of the album, we get the feeling that the brothers are turning out “OK.”
You can stream OK ORCHESTRA on platforms like Apple Music and Spotify.