Andrew McMahon has been through a lot in the last seven-plus years, between reaching the heights of stardom with Something Corporate and his first solo album as Jack’s Mannequin and then being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2005. Most artists would take some sort of break after beating a horrible disease, but instead McMahon went right back to work—releasing a new album three years later. Now, he returns again with People and Things, his latest effort that focuses on finding normalcy whilst still showing the signs of a rough brush with death.
Judging from this record, McMahon’s concept of “normalcy” is writing heartfelt, piano-driven music that rarely fails to give the listener a little rush of melancholic joy. McMahon remains one of the best in this fading genre, and tracks like “My Racing Thoughts”, “Amy, I”, and “Amelia Jane” show he’s at the top of his game. They’re sweeping and big, and best of all they move with a starry-eyed, hands-in-the-air kind of energy.
On the other side of the coin, there are inclusions like “Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die)” with the sing-along chorus of “Hey hey hey we’re all gonna die someday.” Not the most optimistic of tunes, and the backing of a thoughtful piano and full, almost orchestral guitars add a twinge of sadness—showing a few knowing chinks in McMahon’s sunny armor.
Overall, People and Things is well-crafted but may be a bit too much of what is a dying genre. It’s what McMahon has been doing best for a while, but for longevity’s sake it may be time to add a little change to his normal routine.
Essential Tracks: “Amy, I”, “Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die)”, and “Amelia”