Andrew McMahon has released his third album, an 11-track exploration of his life called “Upside Down Flowers.” Although the album “Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness” is not his first solo project as an artist, he produced music under the title “Jack’s Mannequin” from 2004 to 2012, he has breathed a different kind of enthusiasm for the ups and downs of life into this project.
The album’s announcement on McMahon’s website says, “Welcome to the land of Upside Down Flowers. We don’t live here because it’s easy, we live here because it’s beautiful.” He explains the meaning behind a number of the tracks, as well as the people who inspired them, stating, “When I close my eyes and think about these songs I see the faces of the people I wrote them for. Some are so real I can conjure our shared lives in waves of nostalgia and others are a fiction I’ve grown to love so dearly over time they might as well be old friends.” At its core, “Upside Down Flowers” is about, and for, the people in McMahon’s life, both real and fictional, no matter what his relationships to them are. It’s a love letter to his family, to his past and to the uncertainty of the future.
“Upside Down Flowers” opens with “Teenage Rockstars,” a look into his past and his first band, “Something Corporate.” Nostalgia is a common theme within McMahon’s recent music; it is also explored in “Halls” and “High Dive” from his debut album, “Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness.” Other common themes he explores on “Upside Down Flowers” include fatherhood, his battle with leukemia, the frequent movement of his family and his relationship with his wife.
Soundwise, “Upside Down Flowers” relies heavily on powerful bass lines. Although few tracks are danceable, dissonant vocals give a dreamlike vibe. McMahon’s unique, soaring vocals set the album apart from many other indie albums of the past few years, and the electronic modifications to the vocals seek only to give effect, rather than drastically alter the sound of his voice.
Standout tracks from the album include “Paper Rain,” the tale of a fictional father who goes to Las Vegas in an attempt to gamble away all of the family’s money problems, as well as “Ohio” and “Goodnight, Rock and Roll.” “Ohio” explores his feelings about leaving his father and his life in Ohio to move to California with his mother and his sister Katie. It expresses the bittersweet and conflicting feelings that come with both leaving a home you have always known and leaving an abusive parent behind. “Goodnight, Rock and Roll,” explores the death of rock and roll idols such as Tom Petty and David Bowie through the eyes of a musician who has been influenced by the various works that these artists have released.
Despite the new sound that McMahon has produced with this album, the differences are very much welcome and offer listeners an evolved sound very much within the realm of previous tracks and albums. No matter where McMahon heads next, it’s sure to keep listeners engaged and feeling like they’ve stepped into their favorite indie film.