Former Something Corporate frontman Andrew McMahon may have survived leukemia, but don’t expect him to get all sentimental about it. If anything, his follow-up to Everything in Transit is less personal than its predecessor, the already sweeping, eternally uplifting piano-pop transforming into a veritable raised fist of epic keyboard flourishes.
For every allusion to doubts arising during his illness—“I’m alive, but I don’t need a witness/To know that I survived” in “The Resolution”; “Even if your voice comes back again/Maybe there’ll be no one listening/And even if you find the strength to stand/It doesn’t mean you won’t go missing” in “Crashin’”—there are twice as many lyrical love notes to Los Angeles. Even the slew of nature metaphors (the defiant “Swim,” the building, multi-part “Caves”) address universal themes of change and determination, as opposed to hospitals and hair loss.
The direction is at first surprising, yet McMahon’s side project-turned-full-time-gig has a history of disregarding expectations. Mold-breaking in its authenticity (no faux-punk posturing here) since its inception, Jack’s Mannequin boasts denser, more painstakingly crafted arrangements this time around, including a few scattered synths and a distinct hip-hop vibe underscoring the verses of “Bloodshot.” Forget introspective indulgence; this is intelligent, ever-maturing musicianship at its very best.