The Progression of Andrew McMahon’s Sound


     Since his debut in 2001 with Something Corporate’s first EP Audioboxer, Andrew McMahon has set a high standard for future alternative rock groups to reach. Having been the frontman for a considerable number of albums since the EP’s release, McMahon has undergone changes in style and sound for over 15 years. Having heard about the release of his newest single “So Close” on January 6, and learning of his subsequent announcement of a new album debuting February 10, I decided to dedicate an article to the progression of McMahon’s sound ranging from his introduction in Something Corporate to his current project, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – and boy, has that sound changed!            Something Corporate was conceived like any other post-high school band is: former teenage buddies from the West Coast got together in a friend’s basement one weekend and had a jam session. In their genesis they produced a sound not far off from their pop-punk and alternative rock competitors of the time. They placed heavy emphasis on alt-rock guitar riffs and those classic angsty lyrics about how lame high school was and how hot that girl who listens to punk rock is. Gaining popularity locally, they eventually caught the attention of two record labels who helped them produce their first official record, Leaving Through the Window. One key aspect of Something Corporate’s music set them apart from the rest of the bands that fiddled with that similar pop-punk sound; the incorporation of piano in Audioboxer and the subsequent album Leaving Through the Window was interestingly new and refreshing to the scene.

           After the production of a short, lesser known album titled North followed by a brief tour, Something Corporate lost its ground. McMahon eventually returned to the West Coast and started his solo project Jack’s Mannequin. The band’s first, and arguably most notable, album Everything in Transit is what truly separated McMahon from the overplayed emo direction Something Corporate was heading toward. With significantly more piano, far less aggressive lyrics, and a gentler sound overall, Jack’s Mannequin became the mature indie rock sound McMahon grew into. The matters referenced in Everything in Transit’s lyrics are much more grownup than those of McMahon’s past – encompassing situations such as long distance relationships and isolation.

           The band’s subsequent albums, The Glass Passenger and People and Things, didn’t reach the sensation Everything in Transit did. People and Things specifically marked the transition from McMahon’s emotional rock phase to a more carefree, upbeat vibe. This is heard most prominently in “Television”.

           In 2014, McMahon made clear his transition from indie rock to pop rock after having published his solo album Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Songs such as “Cecilia and the Satellite” and “High Dive” feature a much more synthesized sound than those of McMahon’s previous projects. His newest tracks “So Close” and “Don’t Speak for Me (True)”, released this January, take on an electro-pop sound not unlike those permeating the radio stations today. The one change, however, that is most notable in McMahon’s newest tracks is the abandonment of the piano that gave his music the unique sound it once had.

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