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by Scott Interrante

28 Apr 2015

Seven albums, three bands, and 15 years into his career, Andrew McMahon continues to reinvent and reinvigorate his music.

The Southern-California singer/songwriter’s latest album, the self-titled first release of his new Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness project, was released in October of last year and finds McMahon spreading his wings into new sonic and thematic territories while retaining his penchant for deeply personal lyrics and confessional melodies.

Reinvention, though, is nothing new for McMahon, who started out fronting emo band Something Corporate before breaking off for a solo project under the name Jack’s Mannequin. McMahon recently made a change again with the release of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. “I think I was ready to move on from Jack’s Mannequin,” he said. “A lot of that music was so closely attached to a really difficult time in my life that spiritually I was ready to cleanse myself of that and move into a new, exciting chapter that didn’t have to be so closely attached to my cancer,” referring to his diagnosis and battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

With a newly born child, McMahon was ready to look forward and felt a new name, his own name, was a necessary step to take in his career. “I felt like I was in a new moment in my life where so many things were changing and my emotional and spiritual headspace was so much more grounded. In that it was like this is the moment to step out and say, ‘Yeah I am a guy in a band but my name is Andrew and I’d like you to hear my new songs.’”

With their tune “Frayed”, the Oakland, CA group Waterstrider had a task. The tune, which is featured on a compilation LP by the new label OIM Records, was recorded in label co-owner Jeff Saltzman’s studio, where they only had three days to finish recording. You could hardly tell the time constraints from the sound of “Frayed”, however; with its hum along-able vocals and its catchy rhythm, the song becomes all the more impressive given its limited timeframe of creation.

Brad Gooch, whom in the last 20 years or so has become increasingly known for his biographical works, started his career in New York during the ‘70s as a model, landing himself in the pages of high fashion magazines. Modeling, in fact, was a means to keep paying the rent.

Gooch’s true vocation in literature would see his works published in various magazines during the first lap of his literary pursuits.

With Begin the Begone, the Orange Peels embark from a new home base in the redwooded Santa Cruz Mountains with a new lease on life, after a brush with death in a near-tragic car crash. At the end of touring Sun Moon, the band’s 2013 LP, members Allen Clapp and Jil Pries were involved in a car accident that they were both lucky to survive, as they were hit by a drunk driver going 60 miles per hour. Out of such a close call with the grim reaper the Orange Peels crafted Begin the Begone, an album that finds these creative Californians taking pop song structures and amalgamating them with prog, post-rock, and psychedelic, among others.

Originally hailing from Yellowknife, the capital city of Canada’s chilly Northwest Territories, Dana Sipos has crafted an interesting musical path for herself, one that brings to mind phrases like “off the beaten path.” This is not merely a metaphorical observation; having lived nomadically for some years now, she’s traveled Canada through various non-motorized forms of transportation, including bicycle and tall ship.

The uniqueness of her life’s experience is borne out rather beautifully on Roll Up the Night Sky, her latest full-length record. Below you can stream the dreamy little nocturne “Portraits”, which shows Sipos’ knack for smart chord progressions—check the tonal shift that comes in when the D major chord shines a little light on the otherwise somber minor key of the song.

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