By Laura K. Garrison
After what seemed to be three long years, California piano-rock band Jack’s Mannequin released their third studio album People and Things on Tuesday, October 4th. Admittedly, Jack’s Mannequin was something of a middle school phenomenon where I come from, when they appeared as themselves on an episode of One Tree Hill. In subsequent weeks, classmates would break out singing “The Mixed Tape” in between classes and include other JM songs on the mixed CDs we burned for each other. My discovery of Jack’s Mannequin couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment—I often credit them as the band that got me through the awkward and difficult transitions during high school.
After being hooked by the clever lyrics and catchy sound of the band’s first album Everything in Transit, I couldn’t wait for the release of their next album. Singer/songwriter Andrew McMahon’s diagnosis of leukemia in 2005, however, had halted any hope of a quick follow-up. Once McMahon’s cancer went into remission, Jack’s Mannequin recorded their sophomore effort The Glass Passenger, an album heavily influenced by McMahon’s recent battle with leukemia. Between the sweet sound of Everything in Transit and the painful reminisces of The Glass Passenger, it seemed that there was a JM song for every moment and always an overlooked lyric ready for analysis. When Jack’s Mannequin announced the release of a third album this past summer, I couldn’t wait to bring one of my favorite contemporary bands with me to college.
I’ve always defined JM albums by the seasons: Everything in Transit in the summer, and The Glass Passenger in the winter. Upon listening to People and Things, however, I knew it was an album for anytime, anyplace. Quite simply, People and Things bridges the two extremes of its predecessors. For dedicated fans, People and Things is a reinforcement of everything we love about Andrew McMahon—his honest voice, his witty lyrics, and his paradoxically sunny-yet-dark subject matter. For new listeners, People and Things is a wonderful introduction into Jack’s Mannequin’s juxtaposition of carefree West Coast lifestyle against existential self-reflection. As always, McMahon’s lyrics are well-crafted and meaningful, with wordplay that enhances their deeper messages.
People and Things opens with fast-paced, bright tracks; the lyrics are quickly ingrained in your memory and generally mellow into softer piano ballads that tug lightly at the heart. The album peaked on iTunes at number two, unable to overtake Adele’s 21. Three different versions of the album are available for purchase, but I would recommend the deluxe version on iTunes, which offers the best variety in its track listing.
Some of my favorite tracks:
“My Racing Thoughts” – Released originally as a single, it’s a bright opening with a catchy, infectious chorus
“Release Me” – Continuing the upbeat start, this track is highlighted by its edgier sound and biting lyrics (“And I’ve been known to take a big chance/But I can’t waste another shot at redemption”)
“Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die)” – Though a morbid premise, a celebration of life colored by McMahon’s personal experiences
“Hostage” – A candid reflection of love lost and regained, noteworthy for its simply disarming chorus
Laura Garrison is a first-year at Barnard College and a Staff Writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing. If someone ever wants to make a movie about her life, she requests that Andrew McMahon be in charge of compiling the soundtrack.
Photos courtesy of The NJ Underground, and High Plains Reader, respectively.