Review: Andrew McMahon – Three Pianos: A Memoir

Three Pianos

Andrew McMahon sounds like a man who’s been through some really tough situations. From a childhood filled with several moves to different parts of the country, to his dad’s battle with addiction, and his steadfast love for the music that got him through it all, McMahon crafts a tangled web of stories that he divides up into three book sections based on three pianos that have meant something to him at different points of his life and career. Three Pianos: A Memoir is a fairly quick reading experience, especially for those familiar with McMahon’s musical references in his bands of Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin, and lastly Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness. This only speaks to his ability as an author to convey such rich, vivid memories from an emotional standpoint that led him to be the man that he is today. As McMahon puts it in his memoir, referencing the transition between Jack’s Mannequin and the start of a new adventure in The Wilderness Years, “Starting over at twenty is easy. At thirty it’s a test of your mettle.” Battling through a leukemia diagnosis, to navigating through several starts and stops in his musical journey, McMahon never lets his difficult story seem hopeless. Instead, he provides a beacon of hope for others to keep pressing on when we reach our own breaking point.

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Review: Something Corporate – Leaving Through The Window

“Write what you know.” That piece of advice has been given countless times to countless writers across countless different mediums, from books to films to TV shows. It’s not a bad tip, especially for greener storytellers, but it can also be limiting. In the world of songwriting, especially, one of the great joys is how a song can allow you to inhabit someone else’s life for a few minutes, or to experience a world other than your own. There’s something exhilarating about when a talented songwriter steps outside their own life to take a walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s Springsteen writing a bunch of songs about killers and criminals on Nebraska or Taylor Swift closing her own diary to explore character on folklore and evermore. Still, for some writers, the “Write what you know” mantra is the gateway to brilliance, and few young songwriters ever took it more seriously than Andrew McMahon did on Something Corporate’s 2002 major label debut, Leaving Through the Window.

McMahon turned 19 on September 3, 2001. A few months later, on the day after Christmas, he and his bandmates commenced recording for the album that would become their big breakthrough statement. By January, the album was done, and on May 7, 2002, it hit the streets. McMahon was still four months shy of his 20th birthday, and less than two years out of high school. Rather than try to write songs that hid his youth, McMahon embraced it. The result was one of the greatest and most authentic albums ever made about teen angst, growing up, and coming of age. Leaving Through the Window is now older than McMahon was when the record came out, but it remains gripping and beautiful due to how timeless the themes and stories proved to be.

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