“One day, maybe someday in a world speeding up. It’s getting hard, so very hard to keep up.” Those are some of the lyrics in AJR’s opening overture on their newest album, “OK Orchestra.” And it’s these lyrics which introduce listeners to some of the central themes of the album: growing up and having to become an adult, but longing for childhood.
AJR is a band made up of three brothers; Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met. Even if you don’t recognize the band’s name, you have probably heard one of their songs at some point. Their 2013 single, “I’m Ready” became a radio hit and is most recognizable due to its use of SpongeBob’s iconic phrase “I’m Ready.” This song introduced to the world this band of brothers who aren’t afraid to make music that is different.
The group had two more chart-topping hits with singles “Weak” and “Sober Up” both becoming huge radio and TikTok hits and truly solidifying AJR as a force to be reckoned with.
Personally, I’ve been following AJR since 2014 and have been lucky enough to have seen them live, both in concert and acoustic, and to have met them twice. AJR has been a band that I’ve been drawn to for so long, as their sound is so uniquely them and their songs address issues and emotions that nearly all of us face.
And “OK Orchestra” only continues this tradition.
Starting off with an overture (an AJR tradition) the album propels listeners into this very real world right from the beginning. “OK Orchestra” (or “OKO” for short) had three singles released prior to the albums’ March 26 release; “Bang!,” “Bummerland,” and “My Play.” “Bummerland,” which was released in August 2020, is very much a song of its time. With lines such as “This month I got seven haircuts and now my hair is all gone. It’s sad but I’ve been alone for too long, so I keep getting haircuts” and “Better nix my summer plans,” AJR uses this shared experience of living through the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to not only create catchy songs, but to make music that resonates with people.
This realness only continues with some of the other songs on “OKO.” The sixth track on the album, “Adventure is Out There” starts off with the line “I keep losing my socks, where the hell do they go?” which is a laughable, yet very real thing that people deal with. The song goes on to discuss the struggles of wanting to make something of your life, or even just your day, but constantly feeling stuck where you are.
The closing song of the album, “Christmas in June,” is upbeat and happy sounding, but the lyrics tell a different story. The song discusses the difficult balance of pursuing what you love and being able to be with the ones you love. The song is honest and shows a struggle very real to many people, especially those who must travel for work, such as musicians. Lyrics such as “How lucky I am to have two things I love, makes it that much easier to fuck it up,” show the struggle of having two vastly important things in your life, but because of that, worrying immensely about how your choices will affect both things.
Personally, my favorite track off the album is “World’s Smallest Violin.” The song is about comparing yourself to other, more accomplished people you know while dealing with your own struggles. I know I relate to this, as especially going into college and seeing all these more accomplished people, you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities. The song addresses the longing to have your worries and struggles validated, even though you know other people have it worse. The chorus of the song, “The world’s smallest violin really needs an audience,” shows this plea to just have someone listen and be there for you, no matter how big or small the issue or accomplishment is.
Overall, “OK Orchestra” is a very fitting album for many people’s lives right now. It combines challenges and internal thoughts in a very organic and catchy way. If you want to hear how a band features the Blue Man Group on a song, or just need an upbeat album to dance around to, these brother Ukulele DJ’s known as AJR have got your back.
Emily Imanishi is a first year Writing for Film, TV and Emerging Media major. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art by Julia Young.