Album Review: Andrew McMahon – The Pop Underground

I See Colors When I Hear Your Voice

Initially, the thought of Andrew McMahon trading-in his iconic piano for a full-on synthesizer sounds a bit blasphemous and ludicrous. The Piano Man is a legend around these parts; a lyrical genius in the eyes of many. Still, we remained profoundly hopefully when the announcement was made excitedly stating McMahon would be embarking on his first-ever solo journey. Astonishingly, it was only a week prior to the album’s release that I was informed of the its upcoming arrival. Like most, I had been expecting the traditional mix of anthems and ballads. Never would I have believed I would instantly fall for any kind of “new and improved” version of what I’ve been accustomed to and attached to for years. In all honestly, The Pop Underground was a resplendent surprise for me. Eventually, the thought of Andrew McMahon trading-in his famed piano for a cutting-edge synthesizer sound seems flawlessly acceptable and significantly late in its arrival.

I’m not going to lie to you, though. It’s different. Some actually might find this extreme departure too much to handle. Gone are the intricate and elaborate piano themes, the untouched vocals, and the intense power-house melodies. The EP is a path previously untraveled. It’s flashbacks and dance tracks; synthesized waves and handwritten letters. It’s classic versus contemporary; a mixture of revolving rainbow lights and personal growth. Andrew’s lyrics are awe-inspiring as usual, and the tracks are immaculate and memorable, despite the drastic deviation. Truthfully, it is impossible to not love every single thing he does.

Synesthesia – the first tune off the record – appears like long, drafted letter to a constant companion. It’s a love song in the way only Andrew could write: “I see colors when I hear your voice/I could love you in the falling rain.” Synesthesia might be considered the close to McMahon’s previous work melodically, but sets itself apart with its enhanced harmonic chorus, punches of polished synthesized guitar pulls and keyboard clicks. It introduces us to a modified way of thinking about what we want and need from McMahon’s music. Change is inevitable, but most decidedly welcomed.

I can imagine this next track perfectly incorporated into a room filled with swaying bodies and various kinds of luminous jewelery. Catching Cold is a dance track, plain and simple; an improved upon 80’s disco-club anthem. It quickly became a favored track with its dark, dominate lyrics and vivacious strains of fluttering electric keyboard chords. The bass hums, knocks and remains like a shadow. Jump! It begs you. Sing! It commands. “It will only take a little while ’till your highs will become my lows. Barely moving, then you’re running wild. Catching fire like you’re catching cold.”

Reflecting on the past; living like there’s no tomorrow. Learn to Dance resembles a kind of song we likely could have seen on The Glass Passenger. McMahon’s signature vocal is at its optimum familiarity, raspy and low transforming into one of strength and height. The chorus is somewhat kitschy, but is offset by the infused, standard enjoyable McMahon percussive refrains. Live. Dance. Love. It’s a repetitive theme throughout McMahon’s music. Sooner or later, we have to take what he says to heart.

The standout, undoubtedly, has to be the record’s grand finale, After the Fire. It was the first track I had listened to and the one that seems to constantly participate in those frequent middle-of-the-night ipod meetings. It makes me feel all fuzzy inside, like sunshine and rollercoasters, palm trees and flip-flops. It makes me remember all those times I’ve said how Andrew’s music sounds better with the wind in your hair and the radio volume set on eleven. It makes me want to dance, and I should tell you, I don’t dance. ‘The song comes crashing though a cloud so black and full of rain (of rain), after the fire.”

Album Rating: A+

Buy The Pop Underground on iTunes HERE

For more Andrew McMahon visit his Official Website

Have you listened to The Pop Underground? What did you think of the album? Which track was your favorite? What do you think of Andrew McMahon’s first solo effort? Are you excited to hear the full album? Tell me in the comments!

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