Crate Digging Weekly: AJR’s new album is an existential crisis we can all vibe to

“OK ORCHESTRA” carries an important message of hope and resilience that we all need to hear during this time in history, and in our lives.


Album cover courtesy of S-Curve Records

Colleen Leidner, Contributing Writer

Over the years, I never really followed AJR. I’ve always enjoyed a good song that I felt like the artist was looking into my soul when they needed a muse, but AJR never struck me that way.

I had known of them and maybe two or three hits that they had released over the years– seriously, who doesn’t know “Weak?”– but none of them really grabbed me in the way that some of my favorite bands already had.

The musical trio, composed of three brothers whose initials make up the name of the band– Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met– have been teasing their fourth studio album titled “OK ORCHESTRA” since February of 2020 with the release of their single, “Bang!” It wasn’t until they released a single entitled “Bummerland” at the end of last August that they really got my attention.

As you probably guessed, “Bummerland” is an ode to hope in these unprecedented times. My preteen brother and I would dance around the kitchen to it as we did the dishes together during lockdown, and it truly did give us a little bit of hope. 

“OK ORCHESTRA” came out March 26, consequently the day I had a road trip. I only found out that this fourth album had been released because Youtube suggested yet another music video from AJR. I honestly thought it was another tease, but upon looking further into it, “World’s Smallest Violin” was not the only song that had dropped. I streamed the entire album after excitedly texting my best friend, who was on lockdown and needed a pick-me-up. 

In the three days that followed since I first streamed “OK ORCHESTRA,” I have streamed it too many times to count. There is such a comforting sense of understanding in what AJR put out, and how these brothers know what their audience of college-age kids need to hear.

The album opens with a song called “OK Overture,” which is in itself all one needs to hear to understand AJR’s style. It’s a synthed, autotuned conglomerate of every song on the album in sequence of the songs that are more sad or existential, and finishes with the songs that are hopeful. 

“3 O’clock Thoughts” is a funny and introspective look on what it means to be a young person trying to learn how to live, and the panic that comes at 3 a.m. when one is awake and should be sleeping. “Adventure is Out There” opens with a look at how the human population constantly loses their socks, and how if those socks can be free we can too: adventure is out there and nothing is stopping us from living our lives. “World’s Smallest Violin” is a joke at how we tend to make things much bigger than they really are.

“My Play” is about the conflict in a household where the parents are being divorced, and a child’s frustration over ever finding anyone to love if their parents fell out of love. “The Trick” is a satirical look at how people can lie about themselves to seem like more than they are. “Humpty Dumpty” is an analysis of how anxiety and stress affects someone on the inside.

There are, of course, some songs about COVID-19 and what it’s like to be alive in a nation under lockdown. “Bummerland” jokes about getting too many haircuts because of a lack of social interaction, and seriously brings some hopefulness into the mix. The other song that directly references the pandemic is “Christmas in June,” which talks about the unpredictability of a world struck by a disaster that is this pandemic. It reminisces on families not getting to see each other for holidays and asking if instead of waiting it out with uncertainty, Christmas could just be held in June.

The pandemic most definitely did AJR a favor, they have never been this good. They started by producing songs written and recorded in their living room about nostalgic childhood and coming out of teenage years. In the space of seven years, they grew into a band that releases relevant content to the kids that grew up listening to them. They have matured in the best ways, both musically and in what they write. In an interview with Alternative Press, Ryan Met said “We can’t help but write about [growing up] and mention it. It really feels like anything you do now, in your mid-20’s, is really affecting the rest of your life.” I think that they pull that idea through this entire album. 

As a twenty-year-old who is still learning how to exit the pull of being a teenager and cope with the stress of adulthood, this is the reminder that I’m not alone that I really needed. Especially during this crazy moment in history that we’re all living through now. The existential crisis wound throughout the album in the songs and the message that I’m not alone is a trip to the therapist that I really needed.

As Ryan Met told Alternative Press, “I hope that fans can listen to the songs over and over again and find solace in them and realize that they are not alone. No matter how trivial and small their struggles may feel, we’re feeling them, too.”

Colleen Leidner is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @silver_tragedy.