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The calm waves of the seaside, the swaying of the palm trees, the sounds of the birds flying by. An introduction to what has potential to be one of the records of the year. Jack's Mannequin, A.K.A. Something Corporate frontman Andrew McMahon, releases it's debut album in the summertime, providing the perfect mood for the season. A concept album about leaving home with your band, and coming back to find everything has changed. Your relationship with old girlfriends, mates and the city in general. Yes, it's a modern day tale told through the speakers, and it couldn't have been produced or played better.
"Holiday From Real" begins with Andrew's beautiful piano melodies placed over, of all people, Tommy Lee's steady drum beats. His lyrics mix with the mood of the song fantastically ("But if you left it up to me/Everyday would be a holiday from real" rings out the chorus). He isn't as forward and vocal as songwriters like Conor Oberst and Max Bernis, but his 21st century writing style fits the piano-based pop like a glove. "The Mixed Tape", the single, powers through with polished guitar chords and fast-paced drumming. Again, Andrew's songwriting really shows him off the most ("Where are you now?/As I'm swimming through the stereo/I'm writing you a symphony of sound" flows beautifully through your speakers against the piano).
The next song, "Bruised", slows the album down a lot. A simple and relaxing piano melody placed over dance-esque drumming works to perfection, and the clean guitar notes just add more to the harmony. Lyrics like "Sometimes perfection can be/Can be perfect hell/Perfect" just sound spectacular with his impressive ability to piece the song together. "I'm Ready" is a highlight of the album, beginning with Andrew speaking "And today was a day just like any other". Again, his writing is very simple but effective, mixing more piano-based pop with catchy lyrics and an especially catchy chorus. Differating from his style for a bit, his spoken speech in the bridge sounds amazing ("My life has become a boring pop song and everyone's singing along" is a superb line)
"La La Lie" may be the catchiest song on the album, and it's nearly impossible to escape from. From the second that gutiar starts playing, along with the piano, drums, and what sounds like bagpipes, you know it's going to be better than great. Again, the lyrics flow beautifully ("Guess what, I'm done writing you songs/You give up your job in the bedroom/The money's not fun when you're gone"), and it's hard not the sing or mouth the "La la lie" backing vocals in the chorus. "Dark Blue" offers another taste of catchy piano-pop, with dual vocals echoing parts of the verses. Again, the piano/drum combination works amazingly again.
We follow it up with another catchy number. "Miss Delaney" is one of the catchier songs on the album. The perfectly recorded sound of distortion in the verses provides a gritty aspect to the polished music already experienced throughout the other tracks. Lyrics like "Finally, I'm letting go/Of all my downer thoughts/In no time there'll be/One less sad robot" sound brilliant against the calm flow of the piano. "Kill The Messenger" might be one of the more relaxed songs off the album, but it's certainly one of the better off it too. It's Eastern vibe combined with the piano melodies sound just amazing, and of course, Andrew's vocals and lyrics shine again here ("Kill the messenger/I swear it's not me it's just someone I used to know/And get to church 'cause you're a good girl" sounds poetic against the music).
The album begins to slow down now, starting off with the quiet and balladesque "Rescued". Andrew's escape from his relationship with an ex is portayed beautifully here, while the piano and acoustic guitar back it to make the mood sadder. Andrew sings "I can't hear the jet engine/Through the center of the storm/I'm thinking I prefer not to be rescued", and it sounds incredibly downbeat and unhappy.
I'll describe "MFEO" in it's 2 parts, "Made For Each Other" and "You Can Breathe". It was originally 2 songs, but combined into 1 for the album release. "Made For Each Other" is a very sappy song when you dive into the lyrics and past the festive-sounding piano chords, it's a perfectly crafted love song ("Oh maybe, we were made we were made for each other/Ahh, is it possible for the world to look this way forever?"). "You Can Breathe", the second part of this 8 minute track, takes up about 5 and a half minutes of it. It's the end of the love song, the break-up, and is played very vibrantly and much deeper than the previous part. Andrew's echoing vocals at the end are haunting placed over the fast-paced drum track.
Andrew caps off the song with a short interval, then the sounds of the seaside again and Andrew talking at the end. He finishes it off with a little speech to the listener, and then it leads straight into the bonus track. "Into The Airwaves" has potential to be a single, a rarity for a "bonus chapter" as the casing names it. A very SoCo sounding song, with a repetitive and catchy chorus, and strong piano-pop rhythms that are greatly played.
So that's it, Jack's Mannequin, as Andrew says. It isn't for kind of listen who likes his songs technical and his music varied. Many of the songs on this album sound similar somewhat, but are broken apart by Andrew's lyrics, truely the star of the record. The story he tells is shown to the listener with nice detail and some beautiful words, and I don't think he could've done a better job. Place these lyrics over some listener-friendly piano-pop and it is just magnificent. Not quite perfect, but by far one of the albums of the year. Jack's Mannequin have potential to write another album after this, and if that's the case, I only hope he doesn't lose his superb ability to write and build songs like he does. Whether it's in Something Corporate or Jack's Mannequin, he certainly is impressive.