It's a little surprising that it's taken this long for Manchester Orchestra and The Front Bottoms, two widely-adored indie bands with a shared comic sensibility and emotional core, to release music together. But in advance of their full co-headline tour, which began last month and continues in Denver tomorrow night, they finally got into the studio in Atlanta for a few loose sessions. "Allentown," premiering below, is the result.
The single has Andy Hull and Brian Sella trading verses, melodies, and perspectives over foggy keys, focusing on minute details that add up to a strange whole: "Contents on the counter / Knocked out of their place / A late 80s biker bar / Just doing its thing," Hull sings in the first verse. He leaves the looping chorus to Sella: "I am on a journey to be free of all my demons[…] / Love it don't affect me, not like it used to." It's downcast and pensive, closer sonically to Manchester Orchestra's recent A Black Mile to the Surface than The Front Bottoms' wryly anthemic last album, Going Grey.
In an email to Noisey, Hull explained that the song started out as a writing experiment with All Get Out frontman Nate Hussey, but it quickly evolved. "Nate sent me the first four lines and asked what kind of music and melody I heard," Hull wrote. "I sent him back the melody and we started crafting out this character with as few words as possible. When I sent it to The Front Bottoms, Brian wrote the cool narrator perspective as our chorus. The Front Bottoms crew came down to Atlanta and we co-produced the track and gave it some proper clothing."
Hull also made sure to point out that "Allentown" also features debut guest features from two possible future stars—his own daughter, Mayzie, and Kevin Devine's daughter, Edie. They're both in the second verse and, Hull wrote, "If you listen, you can hear both Kevin and I providing production notes."
I for one look forward to the Mayzie- and Edie-led Bad Books revival in 2036. In the meantime, listen to "Allentown" and find Manchester Orchestra and The Front Bottoms on tour across the US for the next couple weeks.
Follow Alex Robert Ross on Twitter.