ANDREW MCMAHON GOES SOLO ON ‘THE POP UNDERGROUND’

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He’s been headlining concerts for over a decade, but singer/songwriter Andrew McMahon is just now for the first time seeing his name printed on ticket stubs.

Formerly the frontman of bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, McMahon has been releasing his signature blend of piano rock since 1998. But for the diehard fans that have followed McMahon throughout his career, hearing songs from both bands’ catalogs played within the same setlist seemed like a nearly impossible dream. Until now.

This year, the 30-year-old is embarking on an all-new journey. With the April 30 release of his debut solo EP, The Pop Underground, McMahon has finally decided to retire the monikers of his previous musical identities. And by doing so, he can now place all the songs in his repertoire under the same umbrella: his own name.

“It seemed like the most logical thing, which was to get by on my songs and my own name and make it possible to play all these songs I’ve written at various times in my life and let them live in one space as Andrew McMahon,” the musician recently explained to The Village Voice.

In anticipation of The Pop Underground’s release, McMahon is currently trekking across the country on a largely sold-out tour that finds him revisiting his entire body of work while slipping in teasers of what’s to come. These shows act as a follow-up to a recent stint opening for fellow pop-rockers Fun. on their winter outing, and as a preview of his upcoming gigs this summer with O.A.R. and Allen Stone.

On April 12, McMahon played to a sold-out crowd at Warsaw, a kitschy venue that proudly declares itself as “where pierogies meet punk” in the heart of Brooklyn’s largely Polish neighborhood, Greenpoint.

Opening the concert with the Something Corporate ballad, “Walking By,” McMahon sat at his piano stool center stage, while other musicians slowly started to fill in the instrument stations behind him. By the time the song was over, there was a full band on stage, allowing McMahon to crank up the energy as he smoothly transitioned into “The Mixed Tape,” the infectious and soaring first single off Jack’s Mannequin’s debut record, 2005’s Everything In Transit.

As the night progressed, McMahon cleverly weaved his way between Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin songs. He made sure not just to perform each band’s greatest hits, but also to include some lesser-known and fan-favorite songs throughout the course of the concert’s 19-track setlist.

Yet judging by the audience reactions alone, one would never be able to guess which song was a single and which was an unreleased B-side. With the opening notes to each song, the crowd roared with the kind of boisterous excitement often reserved for the winning touchdown of the SuperBowl or a Real Housewives reunion night in Hell’s Kitchen.

It was this undying dedication and adoration of McMahon’s music that made his first show in Brooklyn such a unique experience. Fans were just as excited to hear tracks like “Watch The Sky,” a seldom-performed bonus track from Something Corporate’s last album (2003’s North), as they were to hear the encore closer, “Dark Blue,” a musically genius Jack’s Mannequin song that’s commonly referred to as a gateway into McMahon’s work. No matter how obscure or random McMahon’s song choice may have seemed, it was hard to find a pair of lips in the audience that weren’t mirroring McMahon’s and singing along to every lyric, treating them as gospels.

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Another benefit of McMahon embracing his solo identity is that it allows him to show just how much he’s evolved as a musician over the years. Anyone hearing him perform songs from throughout his entire discography immediately understands why the journey to becoming simply Andrew McMahon has been such a long one.

As part of Drive-Thru Records, Something Corporate is widely heralded as one of the most iconic bands in the emo/pop movement of the early 2000’s. Their music often tackled the struggles and disappointments of adolescence. It was fueled by that common teenage sense of urgency to grow up, while simultaneously only really figuring out what that meant (i.e. first heartbreak, discovering one’s true identity) along the way.

But then tragedy struck. Three months before the release of Everything In Transit, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Thankfully, his illness was caught early enough that he was able to make a full recovery, but the experience completely changed McMahon (for more on this, check out his moving documentary, Dear Jack).

As a result, Jack’s Mannequin became a band whose lyrics no longer demanded so many answers from life, and instead focused on celebrating it. Songs like “The Resolution” and “Swim” (both of which McMahon proudly played at the Brooklyn show) challenged listeners to overcome their obstacles and never to give up on hope. With each of Jack’s Mannequin three records, McMahon no longer used his music as a resource to dissect life’s little trials, but to emphasize that, in the end, the only way to survive is to let all those setbacks help make you become the best possible version of yourself. Thus, Jack’s Mannequin acted as an uplifting and logical sequel to the youthful franticness and uncertainty of Something Corporate.

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So what will the new music of a solo Andrew McMahon bring? It’s hard to say without hearing The Pop Underground. But based on the two songs that the musician injected into his live show (including the feel-good “Learn To Dance”), his fans will hardly be displeased.

With The Pop Underground’s lead single, “Synesthesia,” McMahon adds a layer of synth pop to his signature brooding piano stylings. Sonically, the song is a natural progression for McMahon, as it injects a pulse of electronic energy to the sun-kissed California surfer-pop sound of his earlier work. And with a booming and upbeat chorus that kicks off with the lyrics, “I see colors when I hear your voice,” it seems that McMahon’s latest musical offerings will be just that: colorful, big, and most importantly, fun.

McMahon’s story has been nothing short of remarkable so far. But with next week’s release of The Pop Underground, the singer/songwriter is embarking on a journey that could easily become his biggest career success yet.

Catch Andrew McMahon on tour now. And click here to pre-order ‘The Pop Underground’ EP.

Originally published on PopBytes

SARA BAREILLES PLAYS CENTRAL PARK (CONCERT REVIEW)

by ALEX NAGORSKI

I’ve been to quite a few concerts this summer and looking back, it’s funny to think about the differences in the crowds.

At Britney Spears, there were gay men in glittery eyeshadow and booty shorts all around me. At Jack’s Mannequin and Guster, the audience consisted of suburban white kids with backwards baseball caps, flip-flops and far too many popped collars. And at Sara Bareilles’ sold out show last night at Central Park’s outdoor Rumsey Playfield venue, the crowd was comprised entirely of hipsters in thrift store-purchased 500 Days of Summer-inspired floral print dresses and PBR-stained moccasins.

“How many of you are you listening to the show outside of the venue?” Sara yelled into her microphone. “This one’s for you!” she proclaimed as she started beating her tambourine and eased into an immaculate cover of Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man.”

The experience of a Sara Bareilles show is unlike any other concert I’ve been to. This is of course in large part due to the fact that Bareilles is a hypnotist of sorts who is able to manipulate the full spectrum of her audience’s emotions. While interacting with the crowd, she bursts with wit, sarcasm and dry humor. But when she breaks into song, her lyrics tell agonizing stories of loss and pain.

For example: one minute Sara will be singing the devastating “Breathe Again” (you know, the song that pretends its orchestration is not a carbon copy of the Titanic score), and the next minute she’ll be introducing what’s on deck by saying, “This song’s for those assholes who think they’re better than you. The ones who are like, ‘oh Sara, you drink too much,’ and you’re just like ‘FUCK YOU, MAN!’” Oh, and if you’re wondering what “this song” she’s referring to is, it’s “Basketcase” – a ballad with lyrics raw enough to be served as a tartare. Talk about emotional rollercoaster. Geesh.

But don’t get me wrong. Not all of Sara’s songs will have you reaching for razor blades. Throughout the duration of her 90-minute set, she sprinkled in animated upbeat tracks like the bouncy “Uncharted” the anthem-of-spontaneous-living, “Vegas,” and a funky cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” She also played bluesy-reworked versions of “Come Round Soon” and “Bottle It Up,” which enhanced the songs’ jazz undertones and flared them into smoky nightclub tunes to puff your cigar to on the dimly lit set of your own personal noir film.

During her acapella performance of “Gravity,” Sara allowed her truly stunning voice to take center stage. Even the drunk dude behind me (who was later escorted away by security during “Love Song” for being too belligerent…seriously) found a way to stop falling on strangers and be moved by Sara’s hauntingly beautiful voice. Sara really has the type of major pipes that few other contemporary female singer/songwriters can rival.

As part of her encore, Sara played a new track by the title, “Beautiful Girl.” Inspired by the tough experiences that some younger girls in her family are currently facing (as well as her own former issues), the song found the chanteuse plucking away at her ukulele with Jason Mraz-ish fervor.

While the message of “Beautiful Girl” is very much on par with the theme of self-empowerment that’s taken over the charts recently (i.e. P!nk’s “Fuckin’ Perfect” and Selena Gomez’ “Who Says”), its lyrics make “Firework” fizzle out and completely abort “Born This Way.”

“So before you trade in your summer skin for those high heel shoes to make him want to be with you, let me remind you one more time that just maybe you’re beautiful, but you can’t see / So why don’t you just trust me they’ll see it too, you beautiful girl, you?” Sara gorgeously sang. Could a new album already be in the works?

To close the show, Sara played “Let The Rain,” my personal favorite track off of her #1 album, last fall’s Kaleidoscope Heart. If you haven’t heard this song, open the iTunes store and buy it right now. Seriously. If you don’t like it, then I think you and I should see other people.

And if you can, be sure to catch Sara on the remainder of her fall tour, now through the end of October. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Originally published on MuuMuse

Tours Of Summer ’09

Flip flops, Ray Bans, driving with the windows down past kids’ lemonade stands, the fragrant and familiar smell of sun tan lotion lathering your body, and deciding to go for a leisurely stroll on 14th street instead of taking the L train across town—these trademarks of summer are slowly dawning upon us. People have already started to embrace the idea of coming out of hibernation and are bathing themselves in the outdoors. Starbucks is making a regular slew of iced lattes and suburban high school boys are rushing to their local American Eagle Outfitters to get the newest and trendiest improvement upon the simple plaid short design. It’s official, the warmest and most picnic friendly season of the year is nearly here. And for the music industry, it’s the allotted annual time slot that’s a guaranteed money maker—all in the form of summer concerts.

The summer has historically been the season with the most jam packed tour itinerary. Kids are out of school, families are going on vacation, people are taking days off work–it’s the perfect time to get fans out to shows to see their favorite artists and introduce them to new ones.


Summer tours have often served as venues for getting fans reconnected with artists who may not have been around for some time, as well as a platform for familiar musicians to test out new songs. For instance, Kelly Clarkson’s “Addicted” summer tour in 2006 was designed to both finish promoting the success of her “Breakaway” album, while interspersing new songs she was recording for her upcoming “My December” release. Fan reactions to these new songs played a significant role in deciding what tracks made the final cut of the record, while they still had a good time and jumping up and down to “Since U Been Gone.”

This summer, Clarkson is touring in support of her most recent release, the #1 album “All I Ever Wanted,” promising a set comprised of past hits, new pop masterpieces, and a couple of covers of music that has had deep personal influences on her. Playing these songs to stadiums full of screaming fans, her summer tour is surely to be both a reminder of who the original and most successful American Idol is, as well as a reclaiming of her “queen of pop/rock” crown after a hiatus from the charts for a couple of years.

Also re-entering the scene after being off the map for quite some time is rock band No Doubt. After a departure from the group to pursue a successful solo career, lead singer Gwen Stefani rejoins her original crew to build up anticipation for their upcoming record, to be released at the end of the year. The show is designed to reacquaint fans with the band by playing essentially a “greatest hits” set, as well as some personal favorites from their twenty-four year career as a group. To draw in a younger generation of fans, opening up for No Doubt will be the female fronted power pop/rock group Paramore, a band that numerously cites Stefani and co. as one of their greatest influences. The wide list of tour dates also includes opening acts such as Katy Perry, the pop star quickly making herself an international household names after hits such as “I Kissed A Girl,” “Hot ‘N Cold,” and the just released “Waking Up In Vegas.” By bringing in radio’s current dominating guitar-riffing divas, No Doubt is not only appealing to their old fans, but introducing themselves to legions of new ones, and are quickly on track for a comeback of epic proportions. On top of that, to promote the tour to the extreme, the band is offering their entire music catalog for free in Mp3 format with the purchase of every individual ticket—so you really have no excuse not to sing along.

Similarly, taking a page from the comeback self-help book, rockers Blink 182 have recently made an announcement that they too have reunited and will be embarking on a nationwide trek across various arenas this summer. Again, the purpose is to bring back all the old fans and gear them up for their impending new record. After a breakup that was set to be permanent, Blink fans rejoiced at the news that the crude, humorous, and lyrically genius band would have their names printed on ticket stubs for a summer 2009 headlining concert.

The beauty of musicians going out on tour is that there is always a show for everyone, no matter the preferred genre. If, for instance, you want to go see some classic oldies on stage this summer, legendary artists such as Leonard Cohen, Fleetwood Mac, Etta James, and a co-headliner between Elton John and Billy Joel are all must see shows. If you want to experience the typical “college rock” scene, concerts by Dave Matthews Band as well as a stadium show featuring both Jack’s Mannequin and The Fray should be on your list. If you’re looking for a fun, guilty pleasure pop show, you should consider catching Australian twins The Veronicas on their “Revenge Is Sweeter (Than You Ever Were)” tour, Lady GaGa’s critically acclaimed first ever headlining tour, or Disney channel superstar Demi Lovato, who is being supported by former American Idol contestant and current hit maker David Archuleta.

Although going into large arenas with thousands of screaming fans usually promises to be a good time, my favorite tours have always been the ones played in smaller venues for a more intimate connection with the artists. Some musicians I am personally excited to see this summer are Santigold and Metric, both playing shows at Terminal 5 in New York City. Others include disco influenced rockers, Of Montreal, who are playing at decent sized venues such as the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Trocadero in Philadelphia, and The Hollywood Bowl in California. The Format’s Nate Ruess’ new band Fun will be attempting to make a name for themselves and garner hype for the release of their debut album by opening up for Manchester Orchestra. Other highlights I am looking forward to are the headlining tours of The Kills, Incubus, Adele, Loney Dear, The Shins, Regina Spektor, Mates of State, and the “River To River Festival” concert taking place at Battery Park on July 4th, being headlined by Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley).

Whether it’s a trip to the beach that ends with a fierce tan or sipping daiquiris and coladas by the pool, the summer is revered as the “vacation season.” It’s the time when you’re supposed to let go of your daily routine and indulge yourself in trips to amusement parks and spend hours strolling through outdoor sidewalk sales. There’s no better way to unwind, however, than watching great music being played live on stage. If the show is done right, a concert has the ability to transcend your body to an out of this world experience where only you and the music matter. This summer, there are plenty of opportunities nationwide to see some fantastic and talented artists play on stage. Although we are in a recession and concert tickets may not be the first priority many have when it comes to spending money, however, the experience has the potential to be absolutely priceless.

by.Alex.Nagorski.

Best Albums of 2008

Rounding Out The Top 20:

20. The Kills “Midnight Boom”

19. The Black Ghosts “The Black Ghosts”

18. Mates Of State “Re-Arrange Us”

17. Fall Out Boy “Folie A Deux”

16. A Fine Frenzy “One Cell In The Sea”

15. Why? “Alopecia”

14. MGMT “Oracular Spectacular”

13. Yelle “Pop Up”

12. Mother Mother “O My Heart”

11. Santogold “Santogold”



10. The Ting Tings “We Started Nothing”

By far the best party album of the year, The Ting Tings’ debut is an upbeat collection of eclectic indie rock that provides the formula for a night of crazy dancing. The sharply punctuated vocals and thumping bass lines makes it easy to hear this record as the soundtrack to any art house film where the protagonist teenage girl discovers drugs, sex, and nightclubs. It is a feel good album with intelligent pop lyrics and a unique sound that can please both mainstream radio and hipsters alike.

Must have track: “Great DJ”



9. Madita “Too”

One of the most unique artists in today’s music scene, Madita’s sophomore album far surpasses her already groundbreaking self-titled debut. Her originality comes in the form of genre fusing, as “Too” may be the first album to successfully accomplish the morphing of electronica and jazz. Think Imogen Heap meets Fiona Apple, and you have Madita’s sensual, tantalizing, and calming piano and synthesizer duets. With “Too,” Madita has strung together two completely different genres to create a unique, refreshing, and addictive sound that will make this record a constant in your car’s CD changer.

Must have track: “Because”



8. Sia “Some People Have Real Problems”

For her third album, Australian folk singer Sia sticks to her soothing, sensual, and melodic signature, yet incorporates layers of new electronic elements to create a brand new more evolved sound. Hands down her most personal and emotional album to date, “Some People Have Real Problems” explores life’s many tribulations, ranging from heartbreak to frustration to pain to sorrow. Think of this record as a really hurt and pissed off Feist drawing on her best Natalie Walker influences to get things off her chest in an attempt for inner peace. Do not be fooled, however, this album is far from a whiny cry for help. Instead, it proves Sia’s remarkable songwriting talent as it puts us on an emotional rollercoaster navigating us in feeling and understanding the various suffering life provides us along our journeys.

Must have track: “Academia” (featuring Beck)



7. Ida Maria “Fortress Round My Heart”

If Regina Spektor were ever to undergo an identity crisis and decide she was a full blown out rock star then she would be Ida Maria. On her debut album, Maria serves as a fresh dish of sass, honesty, sarcasm, sexuality, and rock and roll. Her singer/songwriter vocals make it seem like she should be playing an acoustic guitar at Lillith Fair opening up for Ani Difranco, however, her heavy percussion and electric guitar instrumentation makes “Fortress Round My Heart” sound like a collaboration record between Nirvana and Liz Phair. With intelligent lyrics that can be both vulnerable and abrasive, Maria has created a truly memorable and edgy debut that will keep her on the music map for years to come.

Must have track: “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked”



6. Jack’s Mannequin “The Glass Passenger”

Andrew McMahon’s return to the music industry after taking a medical hiatus for a few years comes in the form of his second solo album since his days as lead singer of Something Corporate. Incorporating vintage California piano-rock elements that made him a superstar of the Warped Tour generation in the first place, “The Glass Passenger” is arguably Andrew’s finest songwriting to date. Adding a full band behind his trademark god-like piano playing creates an epic musical experience that could fill and inspire stadiums full of people.

Must have track: “Swim”



5. Meiko “Meiko”

The re-issue of Meiko’s self-titled debut serves as a reminder that a pretty voice alongside gorgeous string arrangements can be the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing day. Her voice is both melancholy and soothing, creating an aura of zen that makes it impossible to not want to close your eyes and absorb all the sounds floating out of your speakers. After a successful stint on the Hotel Café Tour and appearing as a guest vocalist on albums by artists such as Joshua Radin and AM, Meiko re-recorded her album as it sought distribution by a major record label (in 2007, she self released it). The end result is a beautiful, floral-like compilation of fantastic songwriting being sung by a phenomenal artist that reinstates how alive and thriving folk music really is.

Must have track: “Under My Bed”



4. Jay Brannan “Goddamned”

Creating a name for himself through his countless YouTube videos and self-released demo EP, Jay Brannan’s debut full length record has made him a household name in the Lower Village art scene of Manhattan. Easily the most raw and personal songwriter around, his lyrics not only give us a lens to his perspective on relationships, but allow us to see all the obsessive, quirky, and sometimes ugly inner demons he faces. Never afraid of exposing too much, Brannan’s in-your-face songs and flawless tenor voice have quickly transformed him into an icon in the gay community as an honest and refreshing performer. He sings truths that you’re too afraid to ever say out loud but secretly relate to. Dealing with everything from love and sex to politics and religion, “Goddamned” is not just any piece of art, but a door to someone’s mind and soul.

Must have track: “Half Boyfriend”



3. The Veronicas “Hook Me Up”

Twenty-three-year-old twins Lisa and Jess Origlassio make up this dynamic pop duo that at home in Australia are as huge as Beyonce is in the United States. For their sophomore release, the girls evolved their sound from simple Kelly Clarkson-esque pop/rock to a more dance floor influenced album with not a single bad track. Heavily inspired by the L.A. electronica scene they immersed themselves in for the past year, the record draws on their previous sound and enhances it by adding disco elements and synthesizers. Although the album serves as nightclub dancing material, the lyrics stay true to their style as they are intelligently written, metaphorically rich songs about heartbreak and moving on with life after a traumatic experience. The album serves its’ purpose by still being rock heavy and pleasing the old fans, while experimenting with new genres to draw in new ones. Already having five successful hits from the record in Australia, their debut American single “Untouched” has finally began garnering Top 40 airplay, and it’ll only be a matter of time before The Veronicas become a global pop phenomenon.

Must have track: “Revenge Is Sweeter (Than You Ever Were)”



2. She & Him “Volume One”

Although released in 2008, the debut collaboration between acclaimed singer/songwriter M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel sounds like it could be your parents’ best kept secret record from the ‘60s. Drawing on various influences, “Volume One” sounds like what Bob Dylan’s early recordings may have sounded like if he were a woman. From original songs to covers of The Beatles and The Miracles, this is more than just a stellar first record but a gate-way to becoming underground superstars. The conclusion of the album has listeners begging for the 2009 release of “Volume Two,” as it may just be the sequel to one of the absolute best indie/folk albums of the decade.

Must have track: “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?”



1. Adele “19”

With her sultry, mysterious, seductive and sometimes even haunting vocals, Adele has become the United Kingdom’s best musical import. Paying homage to legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Adele’s debut record is a compilation of the finest quality jazz, with just a hint of pop mixed in. Upon listening to the album it is hard to believe that she is only nineteen and is not in fact a classically trained middle-aged woman who has been performing at upscale blues clubs her entire life. Sometimes accompanied by a full orchestra and sometimes backed by nothing more than an acoustic guitar or a piano, the track listing is entirely unpredictable as each song offers something fresh and new to the mix. Written completely by herself, “19” is the album Amy Winehouse dreams of being able to record, and establishes Adele as a powerful musical force not to be taken lightly.

Must have track: “Hometown Glory”

by.Alex.Nagorski.

Jack’s Mannequin Invites Us To Be "Passengers" Of Life Through Art

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(Andrew McMahon, Myself)

Hailed by many as the messiah of the Warped Tour generation, Andrew McMahon is not your everyday heartbroken and emo-bleeding-all-over-the-piano-keys type musician. When the world first heard his voice as the front man of Something Corporate in their 2002 debut album “Leaving Through The Window,” it was immediately apparent that this was an artist unlike any other in the mainstream media. The success of SoCo’s first album led to a second album, “North,” which garnered enough attention to win a slot on tours alongside big name acts such as Jimmy Eat World, 311, Good Charlotte, and Yellowcard. Once he had built up a diehard fan-base, Andrew decided to step it up and approach songwriting from a different, newer, and rawer angle. The result: he created Jack’s Mannequin, his solo project to express himself through his music in ways he had never done before.

Then came huge, unexpected, unwelcome personal news. Three months before Jack’s Mannequin debut album “Everything In Transit” was released back in 2005, Andrew was forced to cancel all upcoming concerts, appearances, and press for his new musical baby. At the age of twenty-three, he was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia. Legions of fans immediately started raising money for leukemia awareness. There was a fundraiser which featured orange rubber bracelets with the words “I Will Fight” on them, a lyric from Something Corporate’s “Watch The Sky.” Just through one website, absolutepunk.net, over six thousand bracelets were sold raising twenty thousand dollars for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. “Everything In Transit” was released on the same day Andrew got a stem cell transplant thanks to his sister Katie coming forward as a donor. The album immediately jumped to #37 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Later that year, Andrew started to tour again and began properly promoting the release of his record. At a concert in July of 2006, he announced that this was the last night he had to take medication and that starting the next day he would be completely cancer free. A documentary about Andrew’s struggles entitled “Dear Jack” which includes self-recorded hospital footage, is currently in post-production, and also shares the name of the non-profit charity Andrew founded to raise funds for cancer research.

Now, three years after the biggest year of his life, Andrew is back in full swing, and Jack’s Mannequin sophomore album, “The Glass Passenger,” will be released on September 30th. It is already featured on the cover of Alternative Press Magazine’s “Most Anticipated Albums” issue at the beginning of the year. With so much hype around the release of the record, you might think you’re in for a disappointment. But you’d be wrong. After listening to it for the first time, I can honestly say it is the god-sent album we have all been waiting for.

The record opens with the lead single “The Resolution.” The moment I heard the first piano chords and Andrew’s voice, I was close to tearing up. It was really true: he’s back. “I’m alive and I don’t need a witness to know that I survived, I just need light, I need light in the dark as I search for the resolution,” he swoons over his trademark dominating piano hooks and rocked-out band.

I had the pleasure of seeing him perform this track live recently during his opening summer stint for Paramore, and, let me tell you, the crowd went insane. It was the only track from the new album he played during his set because he wanted his fans to be able to sing along with the songs they already knew, but this was by far the highlight of his performance. The song ended with his signature move of him standing up while pounding away at the keys with one foot on the piano, before he jumped on top of his instrument and dragged his stool along the keys for the dramatic finale with one outstretched arm holding his microphone up high in the air. If any rock star is truly a modern rock star, it’s Andrew McMahon.

After this show, I spoke to him backstage and asked him about what direction he hoped this album would take Jack’s Mannequin. He told me that he just wanted his songs to be heard because he had a lot to say, but that people should not expect an album full of sad songs about being sick, but rather a record celebrating everything that it means to be alive. This theme is most apparent on the beautiful track “Swim,” a song about what it means to go through something bad in order to be able experience something good, and how important it is to fight through the setbacks of life.

Featuring guest vocals of indie-pop up and comer Stacy Clark, “Spinning” has arguably the catchiest chorus Andrew has ever written. The track sounds like it was written while Andrew was waiting to find out if he had been cured or not. The listener can truly sense the desperation he was feeling, as well as his desire to shut out the world (including his own thoughts) and put it on hold until he knew whether or not he would live. Lyrically, it’s a very somber song; however, it’s far from any type of ballad and instead serves as a pop/rock track whose chorus you will be humming long after the record is over.

The album is full of songs that still fit into the usual Jack’s Mannequin “California piano rock” genre, but they are clearly more influenced by older musicians than the first record. “Suicide Blonde,” for instance, sounds what I would imagine the Beach Boys would sound like if they were to come out today. The song somehow manages to make you feel like you’re wearing big sunglasses and driving a convertible down Sunset Boulevard on a hot summer day. It’s also one of the most heavily rock numbers on the record, with far more percussion than one is used to hearing accompany Andrew’s voice.

While all the songs on the record are special in their own ways, the true standout track is “Lullaby.” If anyone expected to buy this album and listen to heart-shattering songs about the fine line between life and death, then this is the song you’ve been waiting to hear. The song tells the story of Andrew’s friend asking him to write her a song because she lost her will to live and wants something to hold onto that’s hers. “Give me something to believe in, a breath from breathing, so write it down. I don’t think that I’ll close my eyes, ‘cause lately I’ve been not been dreaming so what’s the point in sleeping? It’s just that at night I’ve got nowhere to hide, so I’ll write you a lullaby,” Andrew sings in a voice reflecting both his and her internal suffering. The momentum of the song builds up until it reaches a crescendo of beautifully intense piano playing. I defy anyone not to feel chills down his or her spine at that moment.

Andrew McMahon has been through more at age twenty-six than the average person goes through their entire life. What makes him a true artist is how he doesn’t allow these experiences to hinder him, but rather uses them as tools to reach out and get others to feel and understand how lucky they are and what it truly means to be alive. When it is released in a few weeks, “The Glass Passenger” will not only be a shoe-in as one of the best albums of the year, but will serve as inspiration to millions of people in need of reassurance. Do not let September 30th go by without buying this record. I guarantee that it has the power to change your life.

Like it? Buy it here