Blaring Drums, Happy Melody: A Look Into AJR's 'OK ORCHESTRA'

This past year has produced many albums that are a sign of the times, and I decided that with 2020 behind us, it was as good a time as any to return to my roots. Living Room. The Click. Neotheater. And now, OK ORCHESTRA. In the past, AJR has produced endless bangers and heartfelt albums that sing to a special part of people’s souls. The nostalgic piece of us that holds onto the “sweeter” times while adversity and chaos whirl around us like cyclones. 

OK ORCHESTRA is the newest fixture in the blazing light show that is the AJR Discography. With tunes about growing up, staring at your ceiling late at night until the world melts away, and feeling like a single, inconsequential wave in an ocean — or a single sock traveling the world without its pair — this album reaches into a place in our chests. The area beneath our ribs where we hide when our fears loom above us. And it coaxes us out with recognition in its purest sense. 

From the moment I listened to "OK Overture" — the first song on the album and a preview of what was ahead — I knew this album was special. So, buckle up peanut butter cups, and enjoy my top three favorite songs from AJR’s newest album, OK ORCHESTRA.

  1. 1. '3 O'Clock Things'

    “It's kinda funny how I paid for college when YouTube was an option / It's kinda funny how I keep debating / If someone's shy or if they hate me”

    Those thoughts projected onto your ceiling’s uneven plaster when not even the neighborhood cat is roaming the streets. "3 O’Clock Things" captures the emotions — those rolling thoughts, like an ocean during a storm — we weather through late at night. It’s a pep talk to ourselves; an imagined conversation you can never quite articulate in the presence of the sun; it’s a statement. All tied together with a catchy tune.

  2. 2. 'The Trick'

    “I know a trick, do you wanna see? / I can be anything that I pretend to be”

    When we discuss astrology, we speak often of our rising signs, but rarely address the masks we wear around each other every day. With its melancholic sound, "The Trick" weaves a picture about putting our best foot forward, always. Shielding the less desirable qualities away from the light in favor of dogs who perform top-notch tricks or trips to France and dancing in the rain. We are taught that if someone lights a sparkler, the only way we will matter is if we light an arsenal of fireworks —​ even if we don’t like or even have fireworks. But "The Trick" reminds us that the person behind those grandiose achievements is just as important as the picture-perfect person we put forth for others.

  3. 3. 'World's Smallest Violin' 

    “My grandpa fought in World War II / He was such a noble dude / Man, I feel like such a fool / I got so much left to prove”

    Once upon a time, my dad used to tell me he biked to school uphill — both ways — in the snow. Despite that being impossible, it made me look at everything my parents were doing at my age and feel lost at my lack of success. But it’s a painful reality because, by my age, Joan of Arc had already accomplished everything she made history for. My attempts to make it through college seem measly in comparison. In "World’s Smallest Violin," this message is captured, like a message in a bottle.

    However, it reminds us that even the world’s smallest violin needs an audience. Whether you’re playing or listening, that role is just as important as the deeds of those before you.

AJR masters the ability to write about real, deep-seated issues all while conducting a catchy remedy that will leave you bopping along. These songs will perform technicolor stories behind your eyelids with every new note and instrument, and these three songs are only a small taste. Stream AJR’s album, OK ORCHESTRA, wherever your playlists call home.