To be a musician, it is important to have creative capital. Having the desire to create is vital, but that is something that should come naturally. Having the capacity to create on a consistent & innovative basis is an intuition that only a select few possess. Many develop their creative capital as their musical spectrum grows throughout their career as a musician. Considering only a few musicians are lucky enough to release one or two albums, let alone make an entire living off of their music, more often than not, creative capital must come naturally.
For over a decade, Andrew McMahon has shown us what natural creative capital is all about. Beginning career as one of the big boys of pop punk & emo, he has endured as a musician time & time again, as well as fighting & beating leukemia along the way. From Something Corporate’s Leaving Through the Window, Jack’s Mannequin, The Pop Underground, and everything in between, we have seen McMahon’s growth both as a musician and an individual. Now, he is Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, and his self-titled album is a testament to his enduring creative capital. McMahon stays true to the high creative & innovative standards he has set for himself, and the end product speaks to his ability to do so effectively.
The album’s lead single, “Cecilia and the Satellite”, does a good job of defining it. Much of it is focused on his personal life, specifically his life as a husband and father. A touch of electronica-inspired pop is present throughout, similar to the upbeat, optimistic pop of McMahon’s previous solo release, The Pop Underground. All of these songs are fit for adult contemporary radio, as McMahon’s songwriting continues to mature here, just as it has with every one of his other releases.
The opener, “Canyon Moon”, kicks of the album right out of the gates, with great enthusiasm and gusto, and cuts like “All Our Lives” & “Halls”, with their strong choruses and synth rhythms, are sure to remind listeners of McMahon’s work in the past. The record’s sound reminded me of “Television”, the third track off of Jack’s Mannequin’s last album, People and Things. It manages to be huge and frugal throughout, big with a sense of modesty and humility to it. While some of these songs are among McMahon’s best work as a musician, as a whole, these ten songs are no Everything In Transit. That being said, that is a pretty high standard to live up to, and it still holds strong on its own.
Included among the optimistic melodies are a number of piano ballads. These ballads also draw from McMahon’s life as a husband and father. On “See Her on the Weekend” sings of McMahon’s about his struggle as a touring musician without his wife by his side. He sings candidly about her fights with the “morning sick” with a “baby on the way”, while he is “drinking too much” and falling “asleep with a cigarette”. Despite his struggles, the penultimate track, “Rainy Girl”, brings everything full circle, serving as a lullaby to his daughter. When he sings, “sometimes when I’m falling in my dreams/I can feel you falling next to me/I guess we’re going everywhere together”, it is clear that all of his hardships were worth it, now that his daughter is by his side.
On Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, McMahon aimed to redefine himself once again. Following his first foray into solo work, McMahon added “in the Wilderness” to his name and released this self-titled album, ushering in a new era in his career as a musician. Despite its new name, this project is not a redefinition of Andrew McMahon. Sure, the album may sound a little different than his work with Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, but what defines Andrew McMahon is his persistence in pushing himself as a songwriter. McMahon’s fight through his own personal wilderness, as both a musician and individual, comes to a head with this record. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness shows us that McMahon will never cease in his push to create the best songs that he can.