The Singles Party: Andrew McMahon, ‘Synesthesia’

the gang gets all synth-y…

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Sometimes at the Singles Party we got an explosion of enthusiasm from one of our staff members about a new track that’s dropped. This week, our assignment editor, Lauren Stern, nearly jumped out of her skin when one of her all-time favorites, Andrew McMahon (the frontman of Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin) released his new single, “Synesthesia.” So at the behest of our AE, we went forward with Mr. McMahon’s latest effort.

Nick Porcaro: Wow … I actually enjoyed an Andrew McMahon song. It feels a little wrong typing that. Sure, his voice is still irksome, but the histrionics are toned down here in favor of clarity and vulnerability. Most importantly, “Synesthesia” gets its sonic atmosphere so, so right, and that chorus is glorious. Nate Ruess and the boys of fun. should take notes: this is how you crossover into mainstream territory while keeping your integrity. VERDICT: Add to the Playlist

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Lauren Stern: When I first heard the news that Jack’s Mannequin was disbanding and Andrew McMahon was moving on with a solo project, I experienced a whirlwind of emotions. As a fan of McMahon’s for about 11 years now, I was obviously excited, but I cannot lie and say there wasn’t a mix of disappointment and nervousness as well. It was hard for me at first to accept that I’d no longer gain anymore memories affiliated with the Jack’s Mannequin name, and I was concerned that some of my fellow listeners and supporters would feel the same and be turned off. McMahon made a pretty risky move by essentially pushing the reset button, so I was nervous for him in that it wouldn’t have been successful as he initially intended.

Regardless of my concerns, which mostly had to do with the opinions of other fans, I waited patiently (just kidding … anxiously) for what I knew was going to be a great song from McMahon, until finally “Synesthesia” happened. At that moment, any of my earlier apprehensiveness was thrown out the window faster than you can say “Synesthesia” 10 times, fast.

“Synesthesia” is structurally and sonically different from anything McMahon has done before, but it’s still fantastic nonetheless. It isn’t too over done like most if not all of the current mainstream indie rock acts, and its components have enough “umph” to skyrocket McMahon into the mainstream once again. The best part of the track, in my opinion, is the vocals, which seem more prominent and highlighted, much like they were on Jack’s Mannequin’s final release People and Things.

Based on “Synesthesia” and some of the other tracks off of The Pop Underground EP that were released this week, McMahon is going to be a force to be reckoned with this year and all the years to come as a solo artist. I can’t wait to hear more and then go see more incredible performances with the new backup band (Next time will be my 10th Andrew McMahon show, isn’t that fabulous?) Verdict: Add to the Playlist RIGHT NOW!

Joe Zorzi: I’ve always enjoyed the music Mr. McMahon has made, whether it be in the form of Something Corporate or Jack’s Mannequin. “Synesthesia” is yet another great pop rock track from the man. The song has a great flow to it and the lyrics are very uplifting. It gives me hope that the best is yet to come from Andrew and I’m excited to hear the rest of the album. I recommend everyone give this track a shot. Verdict: Add to the Playlist

Kelly Gonsalves: Confession: My love for Jack’s Mannequin runs deep and far, far back into my elementary school years. And yes, Andrew McMahon’s voice makes me feel all fuzzy on the inside.

As much as I lament the end of Jack’s Mannqeuin, one of the great things about all of these follow-up projects is that McMahon’s sound and personality stays in tact throughout all of the name-changes — and most importantly, nothing has changed about those drowsy-passionate, terribly human vocals. “Synesthesia” is definitely testament to that; McMahon relates personal introspection in the most poetic way, pulling off charming creativity without crossing into the territory of, say, the overly-flowery nonsense of Owl City lyrics. Add in McMahon’s distinct voice and his dreamy accompaniment, and this single has you feeling like you’re floating in space. The entire song feels exactly like its title, playing off the romanticism of the highly artistic mental disorder of synesthesia. Aside from some slightly tacky lyrics thrown in here and there (“I could love you in the falling rain,” blech), McMahon has struck gold with this single – as expected. Verdict: Add to the Playlist.

Jason Stives: I spent a good chunk of my high school life with the music of Andrew McMahon, thanks to his work in both Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. While my initial feelings towards him came down to what I considered “incredibly whiny vocal stylings,” I soon embraced his honest storytelling that being only six years younger than him I could relate to. His path has been a unique one and a hard one personally but he has made a name for himself through most of it. Having said that I didn’t find “Synesthesia” all that welcoming into his already unique repertoire. Towards the end of his time under the Jack’s Mannequin moniker his music just seemed to distance itself from a personal level that I could relate to let alone find fresh in this day and age and this song definitely mirrors those feelings from a few years ago. I also take issue with the song being named after a neurological disorder but that’s minor at best. Overall, it’s something different that separates him from his prior work, but it’s nothing that really would display to a newcomer that he is an excellent songwriter. It feels overly produced and just makes the man who wrote “Konstantine” seem like just another 21st century pop singer. Verdict: One and Done

Brent Johnson: I expected a piece of dramatic piano pop-punk with whiny vocals from Mr. McMahon. But that’s not what I got. What I got was a decent bit of synth-pop with building tension and a chorus that soars with melody instead of melodrama. Consider me surprised. Verdict: Add to the Playlist.

Bill Bodkin: Never a fan of Something Corporate. Never a fan of Jack’s Mannequin. So when request to review this song, I was awash in a serious case of the ‘whatevs.’ So I was pretty surprised that this synth-pop track was actually pretty solid. Now here’s my caveat — am I adding this to my playlist? Absolutely not. It’s good, but it’s not that good. However, if you’re of the crowd that really digs the ‘new wave of new wave’ or is enamored with McMahon’s earlier works — this is a must. Verdict: Abstain.

Jason Kundrath: A perfectly passable pop song. Mildly entertaining with some decent lyrics. Overall, however, it’s too careful and controlled. If there’s drama to be found on this track, it’s hard to feel it. Personally speaking, I need something a bit more daring. This is the sound of mall emo all grown up, and it does not move me. Verdict: One and done.

Final Verdict: Despite a few objections, Andrew McMahon’s latest offering is a song the gang at The Singles Party recommends highly.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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