When I read or hear about cancer survivors, they’ll sometimes describe how experiencing and overcoming cancer gave them a new sense of appreciation for life and how they carry on from day to day. After listening to The Glass Passenger, you can sense Jack’s Mannequin brain trust Andrew McMahon has developed an even deeper appreciation, as each track is lively and spirited.
McMahon’s battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia has been well documented, so I won’t get into the details, but we’ve seen the photos and heard the stories: McMahon wasn’t going to let this thing beat him, and you can hear vibrant energy and beautiful compositions throughout The Glass Passenger, an album bursting with diversity.
You hear the rush of anxiety immediately on “Crashin,”which is paced by a fast tempo as melodies swirling through your head. The chorus gets your heart beating, as McMahon passionate vocals carry it. “Spinning” features gentle verses with a beautiful harmony between McMahon and guest Stacy Clark, while the chorus jumps out at you. “Swim” features some reflective lyrics from McMahon that may touch on his battle with cancer (“You gotta swim/swim for your life/swim for the music that saves you when you’re not so sure you’ll survive./You gotta swim/and swim when it hurts) as well as the end of chorus where McMahon proclaims “I’m not giving in./Swim.”
You hear the diverse nature of the album throughout, from the reggae-tinged verses of “Bloodshot” to the peaceful piano ballad “Hammer and Strings (A Lullaby),” while “American Love” channels the synth-pop for the 1980’s. The highlight of the album comes in the form of “Annie Use Your Telescope,” a dreamy track that incorporates strings to form a musical dynamic that encompasses your senses. First single, “The Resolution,” features a huge chorus, with McMahon exclaiming about being alive once again.
The Glass Passenger concludes with the stunning “Caves,” a seven and a half minute opus that begins with mesmerizing piano chords as McMahon’s calm yet strong falsetto anchors the first half. Around the three-minute mark, the track picks up, the piano chords speed up and fade out into the full band, as the guitar and drums crash together to bring “Caves” to a climatic finish.
Jack’s Mannequin debut, Everything In Transit, is loved by many, but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t come close to measuring up to The Glass Passenger. The variety and diversity on Passenger separates it from its predecessor and most albums in the pop genre. McMahon’s lyrics and song composition continue to get better, as songs like “Caves” and “Annie Use Your Telescope” display. Andrew McMahon has cemented himself as the current scene’s best pop musician and one of the best I’ve heard in my lifetime. The Glass Passenger invites you to buckle and enjoy the ride of life. It’s one you should take.