Day Five: “Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness” – Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

It’s no secret that Jack’s Mannequin has been my favorite band for the past six years and counting. No matter the release, Jack’s records have always had a way of inspiring me while also setting the bar for whatever music I intended to write in the future. Therefore you can imagine the immense sadness I felt when I discovered Andrew McMahon, the man behind the music, decided to retire the moniker, never to make another Jack’s Mannequin record again.

I was even more confused when he decided to go pop. Although I did not hate The Pop Underground, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the transition. To me, it seemed odd that a man now over thirty would move from piano rock with meaningful lyrics to dance-y synth pop. It felt like regression and, to be honest, I didn’t know if it suited him vocally. Yet this self-titled debut is absolutely stellar. While at times it may feel like the songs are shallow (“See Her on the Weekend”), once you really dig in you’ll find the emotion there. Moreover the imagery and storytelling that’s been trademark in many Andrew McMahon songs is still present (“Canyon Moon”, “All Our Lives”).

What I admire most about this album is its cohesiveness. Though only ten songs, it feels perfect. It’s no longer or shorter than it needs to be. I’ve always put a target amount of songs on any given project I’ve written but this album makes me wonder what it looks like to write until I feel like the album is complete versus making a quota. There’s such completeness to it that at the end of it, all you can do is start it over again. It’s arguably his most focused release since Jack’s Mannequin’s Everything in Transit and it shows in its energy. I already like it more than People and Things, which was not a bad record and I’m feeling like it might be even better than The Glass Passenger, which is saying something. Dare I say it’s up there with Transit? I don’t know, I’m not starting that debate.

Nevertheless, as I work to finish the EP and even start thinking about what a full-length LP could sound like, I think this album sets the bar once again and I look forward to gleaning so much more from this release in the future.

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