The new record from Andrew McMahon is ambitious. So ambitious, that he’s released it under yet another name. Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness is really Andrew’s first solo album proper, given that Jack’s Mannequin became a full-band project, and is very much a pop album in the way that Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate were not.
For the potentially wary, it’s not a huge leap away from his solo EP The Pop Underground, and of course, Andrew’s signature sound is still very much there, loud and proud. However, there’s a much greater electronic influence in AM In The Wilderness than in any previous projects, and there’s plenty of fantastic synth lines running throughout. And that’s just part of it – the sheer breadth of style that AM In The Wilderness encompasses is incredible. From huge pop numbers like ‘Cecilia and the Satellite’ to gospel-inspired ‘Canyon Moon’, and beautiful piano-led tracks like ‘Rainy Girl’ to 80s-styled finisher ‘Maps for the Getaway’ (which sounds like it would fit fantastically on The Breakfast Club’s soundtrack), no two songs sound the same. Each track has its own individual timbre, and yet as an album, it all works together perfectly.
The record also holds a delicate balance between old and new. On the one hand, there are plenty of songs about the forthcoming birth of Andrew’s daughter, Cecilia. ‘See Her On The Weekend’, ‘Rainy Girl’ and of course, ‘Cecilia and the Satellite’, which is the shining star of the album, all reflect on this huge event in different ways, culminating in a wonderful tribute to a baby girl. But there’s a lot of looking back and soul searching as well – ‘High Dive’ and ‘Black and White Movies’ are all about past relationships, and ‘All Our Lives’ is simply a fantastic take on life, its potential difficulties and eventually moving on. It’s an incredibly introspective record in places, bold and decisive in others, but ultimately uplifting at every turn. ‘Maps for the Getaway’ in particular is simply about making it through, and it ends the record on a triumphant, yet poignant note.
The fact is that Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness is a lot of different things. It’s a beautiful example of emotionally intelligent songwriting, immersed in stunning melodies and gorgeous metaphor. It’s brutally honest and genuinely heartwarming. It’s daring, and yet another step further from Andrew’s pop-punk roots. And above all this, it has the potential to be his greatest record yet. Fans of Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin will love this, but then again, so will everyone else.
5 out of 5 high fives!