AJR’s ‘OK Orchestra:’ a chaotic masterpiece

by Ian Maddox

AJR, an American indie pop trio, released their most recent full-length album, called OK OVERTURE, in 2021, and it is something to remember. It takes the type of basic alternative music we’re all familiar with and turns it on its head.

In typical AJR fashion, they start this album off with a rousing overture, “OK Overture,” showcasing the songs and themes played throughout the album itself, as well as preparing the listener for the tone and mood of the following tracks. 

They smash together elements of different genres, making a beautiful orchestral synthesized fever dream of swirling instruments that seem to bleed into each other, making something unique and new. This album has a little bit of something for everyone, even featuring the Blue Man Group in “Ordinaryish People,” and adding many of their more popular singles like “Bummerland” and “Bang!”

You can feel the emotion they pour into their music – everything from the struggle with their parent’s divorce and how that affects their own romantic endeavors, to their regrets and spiraling thought patterns, to their personal opinions on the reality of popularity.

One particular track that resonated with me was “Way Less Sad,” a song about how they “ain’t happy yet, but [they’re] way less sad.” It calls listeners to enjoy the little moments where they can find peace, rather than stressing over the bigger things. One line, in particular, was very insightful: “I’m not dead yet, so I guess I’ll be alright”.

Another song I related to was “World’s Smallest Violin,” a song where they used a technique they learned from making “Bummerland” that makes instruments and vocals almost flow into each other, transforming the song into something new. 

This song uses a similar style, but with a different melody and different instrumentation. It creates a unique sound that you likely won’t find anywhere else. 

The song itself explains how it feels to bottle up all the little pains and inconveniences you face in day-to-day life. While they may not seem important compared to the rest of the world’s issues, not being able to channel that frustration somewhere will make you “blow up into smithereens, and spew [your] tiny symphony.”

Despite my personal favorites, all of them are fun and provide something new to the album, and the alternative music world as a whole. This album can entertain almost anyone. AJR created a chaotic masterpiece, and they established themselves in the world of alternative music as something eccentric and new.

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