When I interviewed Andrew McMahon back in August, he was very hush-hush about his new self-titled debut under the moniker Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness. While he managed to give me some details, it was not enough to garner what the new music would sound like. Until a few weeks shy of the October 16 release date, I was left wondering whether it would match last year’s The Pop Underground EP or if it would be something entirely different.
Then, it happened.
After weeks of dropping tracks on Youtube, the former Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate singer-songwriter released the album stream on Billboard. When I saw it floating on my Twitter feed, I first wondered if it was a joke or a stunt. Once I realized that it was not, I practically dropped everything to listen. What I discovered is that it is nothing I ever expected and everything I’ve been waiting for.
The album starts out with “Canyon Moon” an soundscape filled with adventure, trepidation, and the need to just step out of reality for a moment. In interviews, McMahon has said that the song was about a fictitious girl escaping the hot heavy town of Los Angeles. This is not so relatable for this New Jersey girl, however, I felt connected to it as someone who is currently in a rough spot with a seemingly never-ending desire to flee to greener pastures.
After feeling like I stepped into one of my day-dreams, it was comforting to fall back from grace with “Cecilia and the Satellite,” “See Her on the Weekend,” and “High Dive.” These four collectively are the tracks that McMahon released pre-stream, and are also the ones I just can’t get enough of. “High Dive” specifically captured me when I first heard it, and since then it’s infectious piano melody has been hard to shake. In fact, I’d argue that this is the best song on the entire effort.
As for the tunes McMahon didn’t release pre-stream, I fell hard in love with pretty much all of them. However, I will say that aside from “High Dive,” “All Our Lives” and Rainy Girl” were my favorites. What’s interesting about these two in particular is that they are both different in tone and in the way they moved me. “All Our Lives” was an upbeat song where McMahon reflects his own personal and professional hardships. I think one line I will never forget is when he sings: “There’s only two mistakes that I have made / it’s running from the people who can love me best / and trying to fix a world that I can’t change” There’s always at least one line or song on every McMahon record that I deeply connect with, and this line was the one that resonated with me the most. He always knows the right words to sing.
As for “Rainy Girl,” what makes it so distinct is that he leaves synthesizers, drums, and production off the table, and for three minutes, it’s just him and a piano. Aside from the heartwarming lyrics, I think I loved it so much because it was reminiscent to old Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. With the heavy amount of new accompaniments, it was refreshing to hear some of the singer’s old roots.
I know this may seem like a hyperbolic statement from a long time fan, but this is the best record McMahon has put out in his tenure. Though I do wish there was a little more piano, this new pop-infused sound will certainly make waves for him in this new stage of his career. As someone who has avidly supported McMahon for the last eleven years, I am excited to journey with him through this next phase.
Rating: 9 out of 10
As the Managing Editor, Lauren Stern is responsible for curating Pop-Break.com’s content. This includes managing the editorial staff, coordinating the content calendar, and assigning publishing dates and deadlines. She graduated Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism and Philosophy. She spends her free time searching for the best gluten-free food in the Tri-State area, playing with her dogs, and reading an insane amount of books. She tweets constantly about pop culture and social issues and hopes you follow her musings @laurenpstern.