A smoldering record fueled by sweetly charming rock grooves and heartfelt emotion, Manuel the Band’s ‘Things That Can’t Be Seen’ promises to dazzle and soothe, inspire and seduce as the Long Beach band channel the heat of their West Coast sun in song.
Stream: “Love But Don’t Need You” – Manuel the Band
Manuel the Band can’t help but evoke the Southern California coast: It’s in their blood.
From the tender, jamming guitars and the occasional aching pedal steel, to the rich vocal harmonies and those horns that add bold flavor like spice does to a meal, the Long Beach sextet radiate with a special kind of warmth as they channel the heat of their West Coast sun in song. This holds especially true for the group’s newly-released sophomore album: A smoldering, sun-kissed record fueled by sweetly charming rock grooves and heartfelt emotion, Things That Can’t Be Seen promises to dazzle and soothe, inspire and seduce on every listen.
Black and white you want a meaning
But gray is where I reside to avoid feeling
The cute, the safe, the little games I do to keep you
The hardest part is I love but don’t need you
It’s not that I don’t see
What’s in front of me
But this heart it’s just so used to being on its own
And sometimes that just comes off way too cold
And I hope you don’t expect this is always me
But right now it’s me.
Released February 4, 2022 via Monte Bre Records, Things That Can’t Be Seen is an enchanting follow-up to Manuel the Band’s 2019 debut Room for Complication. In just three years’ time, the sextet of singer and songwriter Manuel Grajeda, pedal steel guitarist George Madrid, saxophonist Matt Kalin, trombonist Richard Fernandez, bassist Kevin Nowacki, and drummer Charles Worth have delivered a ten-track collection that melts like a blanket over the ears: Free, yet flowing, tight yet loose and organic, the album reaches high and swings low as the Long Beach band explore a range of relationship experiences, looking inward as a means of growing outward in the best ways possible.
In previously premiering the album’s folk rock-esque single “Love But Don’t Need You,” Atwood Magazine praised Manuel the Band for “embracing their Southern Californian roots and weaving a tapestry full of heartwarming vocal harmonies, softly stirring acoustic guitar strums, and vivid, soaring and tasteful saxophone work.” The same can and should be said of this album as a whole: Things That Can’t Be Seen is both dynamic and comforting, a record that invites us to join in the group’s reverie through life’s highs, lows, and everything in-between.
“This record is a bit all over the place in terms of timing of the songs,” Grajeda tells Atwood Magazine. “Some of the songs are years old and some were written right before the album was set to be recorded. I love that too! I love the diversity. The subject matter is really all over too. Some love songs, heartbreak, songs about being broke, being happy, school debt… you name it! I’m sure the vision changed throughout the record, but in all honesty I don’t know if we had a solid ‘vision’ of what the album would look like in its totality. I think it was a very song-by-song process and whatever our budget would allow for. Having done it through the pandemic, however, I think allotted us more time to experiment and push ourselves within the realm of recording.”
“The album captures our ability to open up and expand – in more ways than one. I think, musically, we really tried some new things. Recording sounds, noises, different patterns, etc. But also, in the studio, there were things we just didn’t agree on, different visions and ideas, and I think it captures that too: Our diversity as a band and how we think. As a songwriter, I know I was much more vulnerable in this album about the topics I wrote about. And I’m proud of that!”
Grajeda says the album title itself was more of a play on words than a statement of intent, but it’s grown on him as he’s had more time to sit with it. “I think it reflects some of the subjects discussed in the songs: The feeling of heartbreak, wandering around and not knowing exactly what you’re doing in life, questioning love… The list goes on, but I think these are things that really can’t be seen. They can be observed, but they’re not necessarily tangible. So, while it’s a cool play on words, it’s also very relatable too! Worked out I guess!”
Highlights abound between the album’s bookends “Without Me” (an immediate and exhilarating opener) and “Me and My Mind” (a dramatic closer full of fire and flare). “Hearing Love Songs” is an easy, poppier tune to fall for, what with its lilting melodies and catchy lyrics. “Watch It Burn” is a more subversive and raw slow-burner, complete with an electrifying rock guitar solo that aches with searing emotion. “Post College” is a deeper cut: Its airier atmosphere one of fracture and uncertainty, the song nevertheless manages to be a harbinger of good tidings for listeners.
Things That Can’t Be Seen is full of memorable moments ripe for the picking, and the soulful, bluesy “Stolen Me” is a surefire standout. Grajeda’s lyrics of discovering love and learning to embrace it fall gently on the ears as he and his band put their own spin on a classic ’50s/’60s swinging pop structure. It’s elevated and definitively “Manuel the Band,” with washes of charged horns and tasteful drum fills adding to a sense of grandeur, cinema, and human connection.
Babe I’m wondering could I possibly
Say the truth with you
Oh cause honestly think I’d make a leap
And fall in love with you
Come a little closer now are you happy now
Is there any other way?
Think it’s a little funny how
You and I we found this place.
But oh baby,
You’ve stolen me
“At the end of “Watch it Burn,” there’s a horn line that’s very brief, but it adds SO much to the solo. It’s super epic,” Grajeda says of his own album highlights. “Also, I think the pedal steel solo in “Stolen Me”…dude….so sick. It made our producer tear up. In ‘Post-College,’ there’s a lyric that says, ‘With all this time I’ve had to sit and think, I think I’ve reached some sort of brink, where what I’ve had and what I’ve known – it’s not enough for me.‘ That was one where I sat back and thought, ‘nice dude…John Mayer would be proud,‘ haha!”
Grajeda speaks with a candid, laid back ease – the same tone he and his bandmates take with all of their music. Things That Can’t Be Seen is undeniably intense, but it’s intense in only a way that Southern Californians can seemingly pull of: Relaxed, honest, and impassioned. It is this ethos that helps make Manuel the Band not only a standout band, but also an irresistible listen: Their music lights a fire inside without getting you all worked up. They harness a feel-good passion that inspires us to dig deeper into ourselves, while bathing in their sun-soaked soundscapes.
“For listeners, I just hope they listen to it!” Grajeda laughs. “Putting out music during a pandemic was not easy, so I think I can speak for all of us when I say we appreciate people just listening to the album. I think what we took away from it had to do with exactly that: putting out music during a pandemic. Not being able to play these tunes live or truly celebrate each single with a great show… It’s tough. We feed off our crowd, and I think learning to humble ourselves and develop confidence in ourselves as musicians during this period….that’s a pretty rad takeaway to have.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Manuel the Band’s Things That Can’t Be Seen with Atwood Magazine as Manuel Grajeda goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s sophomore album!
Stream: ‘Things That Can’t Be Seen’ – Manuel the Band
:: Inside Things That Can’t Be Seen ::
This song has an ethereal sort of vibe that came about by messing around with two “open sounding” chords. Originally, it was just going to be two chords, but our sax player suggested a third and…boom! Simple and straight forward song about love that came about at the wrong time.
Hearing Love Songs
This was a fun one to write. The story was inspired by reacquainting with a previous love and anticipating how it would be to see them again. Of all the songs we have, I think this one has the most chords. Ha!
Hell Yeah Everyday
This song was simple: “I’m gonna make it” sort of vibes. I’ll be something great.
Love But Don’t Need You
I love this song. It’s very different from the rest and was mainly inspired by being with someone, but also knowing we had a long way to go on our own before “we” could be a thing. The riff is super fun to play. This song came about in the studio sort of randomly and we recorded it in about five hours!
This song is a different vibe for us, and articulates a story that addresses not tolerating someone trying to take something that’s yours. Very harmonic minor driven.
Watch It Burn
This is George’s favorite song and, originally, I don’t think we actually planned on recording it, but George had a good feeling about this one and it came out to be one of the more popular tunes! The song is an older one, written back in 2015/16 and has some really cool sound effects throughout. It was a really fun one to record due to experimentation that went into it.
This song has a sort of “walk down the aisle” feel. It’s a love song about….loving someone. Shocking! I love the horn line in this one at the end. It’s such a build up and really pushes the song to its conclusion in a beautiful way.
Probably my favorite song on the record. This song, originally called loop song because of how I play it live, was inspired by that post college question “now what?” The search for a job, the life…all those unknowns and trying to figure them out.
Can You Give It To Me
This is just a fun song to play with a fun drop that really hits hard. The meaning is sort of ambiguous…I just liked the lyrics and vibe.
Me and My Mind
This is a song about finding love when you weren’t perhaps looking for it. You changed me and my mind. For the better, of course.
— — — —
? © Cesar Sanchez
:: Stream Manuel the Band ::