Andrew McMahon is a piano pop artist born in Concord, Massachusetts who relocated frequently during his childhood before his family settled in California around the time he was entering high school. He has a large discography containing music from multiple projects, including Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin, and his solo works. Most recently, McMahon has been performing under the name Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. His self-titled album was released in October 2014, while his second Wilderness album Zombies on Broadway was released in February 2017. During his tour in the spring of 2018, he teased a new song titled “Ohio” and vaguely referenced new music that would be released in the future. Months later, McMahon has officially announced the release of his upcoming album Upside Down Flowers, coming in November 2018.
Before fans knew about the upcoming album and its release date, McMahon started by letting the public hear the song that had been a secret at his shows. On May 10, 2018, McMahon officially released the recorded version of “Ohio,” which depicts his family’s relocation to California from Ohio. It opens with the familiar sound of a powerful McMahon piano melody before the relaxing vocals kick in. The first verse is relatively quiet and empty, leading up to the pop-infused chorus, when drums and synth add to the peaceful piano and voice of McMahon. The chorus is incredibly catchy, not too fast but upbeat enough to make you bob your head and tap your toes along with it. Even though it is full of energy, you can hear the emotion and calmness contained in McMahon’s voice. The drums remain for the second verse as the vocals become slightly more forceful. Throughout the song, the sad hopefulness of the situation and the journey is clearly conveyed. Despite its pop overtones, the song maintains a classic alternative McMahon feel. The release of “Ohio” was highly anticipated for those that were lucky enough to catch a preview of it on tour, and it was a perfect song to introduce a new chapter of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness as well as garner hype for a new album.
Months later on October 1st, after little activity from McMahon involving the prospect of a new tour or album, he announced the new album, tour, and merch in one enormous post to his website. Along with it came the new song “Teenage Rockstars,” accompanied by its music video. The video is a compilation of tour footage from his prior musical endeavors, looking back at where he came from and how it lead to his current success. The song itself also embodies this message, as it reminisces about the very beginning of McMahon’s musical career in his teens through to the creations and failures of his many bands. Similarly to “Ohio,” the song is full of energy that is not represented through fast tempos or loud instrumentation. It’s a ballad of sorts, the type of song that leads to cell phone cameras waving during its performance at concerts. There is a beautiful underlying piano throughout the entire piece as McMahon’s voice conveys an incredibly nostalgic tone. It is a beautifully dismal song that shows the ups and downs of a music career.
Despite the large gap between the release of the first and second singles, the third single “Blue Vacation” was released just three weeks after “Teenage Rockstars.” “Blue Vacation” also arrived with its own music video. It embodies the general vibe of Upside Down Flowers but is definitely the odd man out when compared to the other two singles. It is slightly more upbeat in terms of tempo, and its lyrics tackle the urge to run away when things go wrong and avoid looking into the future, while the other two songs’ lyrics focus more on looking back into the past, remembering and learning from his experiences. “Blue Vacation” also starts in a much more poppy way, with a boppy synth and drum opening. The vocals are more varied in volume and expression than the other two songs as well. There is no tinge of underlying sadness, and in general the concept of escaping for a better future is presented in a more lighthearted way. It’s my least favorite song of the new music, but definitely not a bad song in any sense.
Overall, Andrew McMahon has not disappointed fans with his new releases. Every song contains the storytelling, catchy lyrics one can expect from McMahon. Each single has a feel-good vibe that is both pleasantly mellow and yet cheerful enough to make you want to dance along. With the album being released less than a month from now on November 16, the new songs and videos have created a lot of excitement. There is definitely a new aspect to this album, documenting a completely different point in McMahon’s life and describing new experiences and emotions. However, the alternative piano pop that fans know and love is still present in the new music. McMahon’s trademark sound carries through regardless of the lyrical content. He is skilled at putting emotion into music, all while maintaining a generally soothing sound. From his lyricism to his piano playing, McMahon is a talented musician. Be sure to check out Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness on Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube. You can also catch him on his US tour this coming winter.
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