Andrew McMahon is a once in a lifetime kind of person. I truly struggle to find an artist who is more genuine and hard-working than he is. His energy is intoxicating; his gratitude is inspiring. The man is the real deal. If you haven’t been following his career…well, shame on you. Let’s recount: he rose to recognition with the early 2000’s punk rock band Something Corporate, reinvented himself with the chart-topping moniker Jack’s Mannequin, survived Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia and founded the Dear Jack Foundation to further cancer research, received an Emmy nomination for his work on “Smash,” and reinvented himself again for three studio albums under the moniker Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Now that we’re caught up, he’s back with his fourth Wilderness album Tilt At The Wind No More. And he’s pulled out all the stops on this one.
Tilt At The Wind No More, released last week via Nettwerk, starts off with “Lying on the Hood of Your Car” and “Skywriting,” two powerful indie-pop songs tackling the hopeful, big dream feeling that McMahon is no stranger to. “Skywriting” was co-written with K. Flay and I think it’s important to mention all of the big talent involved with this record. Along with his incredible band (Bobby Anderson -guitar, Jay McMillan – drums, Mikey Wagner – bass and Zac Clark – keys), the album was produced by Tommy English (Kacey Musgraves, K.Flay, Børns) and Jeremy Hatcher (Harry Styles, Maggie Rogers, Lizzo). When you’ve sustained a lifelong career as well as McMahon has, it’s easy to get the big names involved and this production features one of the best teams you could ask for.
My favorite part of Tilt At The Wind No More is the wide-array of influences woven into each song. A more obvious influence to me is on track 3 with the radio hit “Stars.” With it’s sharp, wailing guitar and quick delivered lyrics, this certified earworm feels like a page ripped right out of Tom Petty’s playbook. During his intimate album release party, McMahon explained that this song was born from a silly fight he found himself in when he couldn’t grant his wife’s request to dance at a cowboy bar (alcohol may have been involved). Whether it be an apology song, a love song, or a mix of both, this song is bound to get trapped in your head.
I’ve caught some other influences with every new listen of Tilt At The Wind No More. I hear a country-esque songwriting structure on the piano ballad “Built to Last,” a whistling surf pop style on the bouncy “New Friends,” and some general psychedelic/space pop sprinkled throughout the whole thing. You may also notice the slightly raspy, almost Robert Smith-esque vocals on “Last Rites.” As he shared at his release party, this is due to him and Hatcher cutting this track when they both had COVID – what McMahon referred to as “their own little COVID sessions.” He tried to mimic his COVID voice during the show and honestly, I think he did a great job of it. It sounded just as great as the record.
Lyrically, this album touches on topics that come as no surprise to the everyday McMahon fan. Big dreams, nostalgia, and some rockstar introspection are all leading themes here. There’s also family and love, specifically on the anthemic closing track “Smoke & Ribbons.” The story goes that McMahon’s sister was trying to set her friend, Kelly, up with Something Corporate’s guitarist, William Tell. And that maybe would have happened…if McMahon didn’t step in to hit it off with Kelly at a Something Corporate after-party one summer night. He would continue to spend the rest of that summer falling in love with her. A love that would lead to a marriage and a marriage that would lead to a daughter; one whose vocals can be heard on “Smoke & Ribbons.” So, yes, it’s a song about love and family (featuring family). I also think it’s a song about finding your place in the world. And it gives off that windows down, driving with a smile feeling; the perfect closing track to another well-executed accomplishment from a true gem of an artist.
Tilt At The Wind No More is out now and we would love for you to give it a spin below: