The Glass Passenger

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The Glass Passenger
The Glass Passenger (Jack's Mannequin album - cover art).jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 30, 2008
RecordedDecember 2007 – May 2008
Studio
GenrePower pop
Length56:54
LabelSire, Warner Bros.
Producer
Jack's Mannequin chronology
Everything in Transit
(2005)
The Glass Passenger
(2008)
People and Things
(2011)
Singles from The Glass Passenger
  1. "The Resolution"
    Released: August 19, 2008
  2. "Swim"
    Released: June 2009

The Glass Passenger is the second studio album by American rock band Jack's Mannequin. Frontman Andrew McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in mid-2005 following the recording of their debut album Everything in Transit. McMahon didn't return to live shows until the end of that year, and were soon followed by a handful of US tours both supporting and headlining. While these tours were taking place, McMahon suffered from writer's block, which didn't dissipate until mid-2006. As touring wrapped up in early 2007, McMahon was able to spend more time writing, with a lot of the songs that would appear on the album written mid-to-late 2007. The group were due to tour at the end of the year, however, as a result of McMahon suffering exhaustion and fatigue, the dates were cancelled and the band wrote new material instead. The Glass Passenger was produced by McMahon and Jim Wirt, co-produced by CJ Eiriksson; the tracking marked the first time McMahon worked with the band in the studio.

Though the main recording sessions occurred at two California-based studios (4th Street Recording and Sound City), additional recording followed at several other studios in both California and Texas. Most of the recording was done by December 2007, problems with his label and the business process started to creep into the sessions. As a result, McMahon went on a sabbatical in January 2008; recording was eventually finished in May. McMahon avoided writing about his illness and instead focused on the aftermath and the recovery that followed, backed with a new-found perspective of the world. Around the time of McMahon's sabbatical, the band signed to Sire Records, and scheduled the album's release for April/May time. A club tour, a stint on the Warped Tour and a support slot for Paramore led into the release of two iTunes-exclusive EPs: The Ghost Overground in August and In Valleys in September.

Following the former, "The Resolution" was released as a single in mid-August; author Stephenie Meyer directed the song's music video. A song title mix-up with In Valleys resulted in "Annie Use Your Telescope" being posted online. The Glass Passenger was eventually released through Sire and Warner Bros. Records on September 30. It sold 49,000 copies in its first week, charting at number eight on the Billboard 200 as a result, and reached the top 10 on other Billboard charts. The album received a positive reception from critics, with a few commenting on lyrics and the record serving as a good follow-up, or even besting, Everything in Transit. The band closed the year with the Hammers and Strings club tour where they performed the record in its entirety, before playing shows in Japan and Australia in early 2009. A two-month US stint titled the Father from the Earth tour took place, leading into a three-month support slot for the Fray. To promote the latter tour, "Swim" was released as a single, as well as two music videos for the song: an unofficial one in June, featuring tour footage, and an official one in July.

Background[edit]

Jack's Mannequin's debut album Everything in Transit was released in August 2005 through major label Maverick Records. A few months before its release, frontman Andrew McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and spent several months receiving chemotherapy for his disease.[1] Due to getting sick, his focus shifted from writing new music to getting better.[2] Jack's Mannequin played its first concert since the diagnosis in December of that year,[1] and the band began several tours over the next two years, both supporting the likes of O.A.R. and Panic! at the Disco in 2006 and also headlining shows, including Tour for a Cure and the West Coast Winter Tour.[3] McMahon had waited until he was well-recovered before he started the writing.[4] Soon afterwards, he went through a period of writer's block after being unable to convey his illness through the songs.[5] Around this time, he was working on Treaty of Paris' debut album Sweet Dreams, Sucker for his label Airport Tapes and Records.[6]

By July 2006, he had gotten through the writer's block and was writing in a studio alone. He said the material was specifically intended for the following Jack's Mannequin record and was reminiscent of the Postal Service and Beck's Sea Change (2002).[7] With the touring cycle for Everything in Transit finishing in March 2007, McMahon focused on writing new material, though he was unsure if it would be for Jack's Mannequin or his other band Something Corporate.[2] After writing "Crashin", McMahon wrote a lot more material; the majority of the songs that would appear on the next record were written following summer. Though, a few tracks were written slightly earlier, such as "What Gets You Off" in July.[5] The band had planned to tour in October, however, due to the constant touring over the preceding 14 months, McMahon suffered mental exhaustion and physical fatigue. The dates were subsequently cancelled as a result.[8] New batches of songs were written in October and November.[5]

Production[edit]

The main tracking sessions for the album took place at 4th Street Recording in Santa Monica, California with engineer Spencer Guerra, and Sound City in Van Nuys, California with engineer Adam Fuller.[9] McMahon re-used his production team, which consisted of Jim Wirt and CJ Eiriksson, from the Everything in Transit sessions:[4] McMahon and Wirt assumed producer duties, while Eiriksson handled co-producer and engineering roles.[9] Bandmate Bobby 'Raw' Anderson did additional production, while Max Coane took on additional engineering. Additional recording was done at a variety of studios with or without secondary engineers: Pedernales Studio in Austin, Texas with Jacob Sciba, Jared Dodd and Bobby Huber; Sunset Sound in Hollywood, California with Grahm Hope and Clifton Allen; Fox Force Five Recordings in Hollywood; Ameraycan Studios in North Hollywood with Alek Edmonds and Mat Camara; Paramount Studios in Hollywood with Nicolas Fournier; Rock Xentral in Sherman Oaks, California with Jose Alcantar; Studio Delux in Van Nuys; and Blue World Music in Dripping Springs, Texas. Additional engineering was done by Neil Couser on "What Gets You Off", and by Pete Martinez on "Suicide Blonde". Chris Rezanson contributed additional programming on "American Love".[9]

McMahon's wanted to make a "very organic" and "natural-sounding" album that stood apart from a few of the "more digital approaches" when recording music.[10] The sessions marked the first time McMahon worked in the studio with his backing band, which consisted of Anderson, bassist Jon Sullivan and drummer Jay McMillan. McMahon mentioned that the studio dynamic changed slightly with having his band in the studio, giving it a more familiar feeling.[4] Wanting to have the album "feel played", as opposed to "chopped up and doctored", a lot of ideas were shared between everyone in the studio, which was six or seven people at any given time.[10] McMahon had some trouble with his label Sire/Warner Bros. Records, who were in the process of internal changes, such as being unsure who he was supposed to show his music to, and who was in charge of the recording budget, among others. On some occasions, the recording process was halted until things had settled with his label.[11] Most of the recording was done by December; additional vocals and overdubs were tracked later that month. The album was planned to be mixed in January,[5] however, the business process began to overwhelm the recording process. McMahon decided to take a sabbatical in that month instead,[12] and drove across the country. He found out a friend, who previously printed his merchandise, had been meaning to go on a surfing trip to Costa Rica. McMahon travelled to New York, the pair got on a plane and flew to Costa Rica.[13] Recording eventually concluded in May, with 24 songs being tracked in total.[14] Chris Lord-Alge mixed the recordings, while Ted Jensen mastered them at Sterling Sound in New York.[9]

Composition[edit]

The album's title The Glass Passenger is taken from "Hey Hey Hey (We're All Gonna Die)",[15] a track that was written early in the writing process.[16] It ultimately wasn't recorded for the album,[15] but did appear on the band's next album People and Things (2011).[17] McMahon said it was symbolic of his fragile state in the days leading up to his diagnosis.[15] McMahon wanted to avoid writing "the cancer record", preferring instead to tackle other themes that had appeared in his life. The most common theme is being able to find "light in the struggle [of getting through life]".[5] The material mainly detailed the aftermath and post-recovery from his illness, coupled with his new-found perspective of the world.[4] Musically, the album's sound has been classed as power pop,[18] drawing a comparison to Ben Folds,[19] with McMahon's piano playing reminiscent of Bruce Hornsby.[20]

"Crashin" is about having writer's block[21] and being able to get through it.[5] McMahon was going through the post-recovery stage from his battle, suffering posttraumatic stress and depression. One night, McMahon had written a number of words down on a piece of paper. Upon waking up he saw the word "Swim"; he viewed it as a sign to pull himself out of his issues.[22] "Swim" became the song where McMahon felt he would overcome his problems.[23] Discussing "American Love", McMahon was struggling to write a song, but was unable to. He look through this journal and highlighted phrases from across the preceding six months, and wrote verses with the lines in them. It talks about a person struggling in a bad situation.[24] "Annie Use Your Telescope" initially last for two-and-a-half minutes, until it was extended at the suggestion of Wirt.[25] McMahon said "Bloodshot" is a character study of other people than himself.[5]

"Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby)" is an ode to the piano and has its origins during McMahon's time in Something Corporate.[26] "The Resolution", along with "Caves", talk about McMahon's battle with cancer.[27] "Caves" is a three-part track[5] with each of the verses was about a different occasion while he was in hospital.[28] The second half of it address the aftermath of him leaving hospital. McMahon came up with the song's piano hook after hearing it in his head at 2am.[27] He got up, went to his piano and started writing the track.[5] He had tried to avoid writing the song as he "wasn't sure [he] wanted to live it again".[27] The song was named after the rehearsal space he wrote it in.[28] "Cell Phone" is an outtake from the Everything in Transit sessions. It was tracked at the end of those sessions, but was left unfinished at the time.[5] The song was relationship-centric; while recovering from his illness in the studio he re-listened to the song, and subsequently re-wrote it.[29]

Release[edit]

Initial promotion and delays[edit]

In December 2007, the title of Jack's Mannequin's next album was announced: The Glass Passenger. Later that month, McMahon said the album was expected to be released April/May 2008 time.[5] On January 30, 2008, it was announced that the band had signed to Sire Records; the group were moved to Sire by Warner Bros. after Maverick Records folded.[30] On February 25, the album was announced for release on April 22;[31] the release was eventually pushed back. AbsolutePunk reported on June 3 that the album had been mixed, and was in the process of being mastered in New York.[32] During July, McMahon told the Montclair State University student newspaper that the release date would be moved to late August or early September 2008.[33] On July 18, the album's final release date was given for September 30.[34] On July 28, the album's track listing and artwork was revealed.[35] "The Resolution" was posted on the group's Myspace profile on August 4.[36] On August 5, an EP titled The Ghost Overground was released exclusively on iTunes.[35] It contains two new songs "The Resolution" and "Bloodshot", and live versions of "Kill the Messenger" and "Holiday from Real".[37]

"The Resolution" was released to radio on August 19;[38] a music video was filmed for the track in early September.[39] McMahon was combing through video treatments, while having seen some positive ones, but felt nothing stood out. After speaking with someone at his label, who proposed thinking outside of simply approaching video directors, McMahon suggested author Stephenie Meyer. Meyer was previously a fan of McMahon's work, even going as far to name him as an inspiration for her own work.[40] The group contacted her and ask if she would be interested.[41] She had no prior experience directing,[42] and collaborated with co-director Noble Jones.[41] Meyer's treatment came about after examining the song's lyrics.[42] When Jones heard the treatment would cost more than their budget allowed, he made a few adjustments.[41] Following this, she re-watched music videos she loved to get a sense of style, namely the videos for OK Go's "Here It Goes Again", Brand New's "Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades" and My Chemical Romance's "Helena".[42] The video was filmed over a 14-hour period off the Pacific Coast Highway, and required three set pieces – an ocean, a desert and a mountaintop.[42]

Eventual release and further promotion[edit]

A new EP entitled In Valleys, also an iTunes exclusive, was released on September 9.[43] It included "Swim", "Cell Phone", "In Slow Motion (Sleazy Wednesday)" and "At Full Speed".[44] Upon the EP's initial release, "At Full Speed" was incorrected titled "Annie Use Your Telescope". To apologise for the mix-up, the band posted "Annie Use Your Telescope" on their Myspace.[45] A third EP, The Resolution EP, was released on September 23 as a Verizon and Rhapsody exclusive. The EP includes the songs "The Resolution", "Annie Use Your Telescope" and an acoustic version of "The Resolution".[45] The music video for "The Resolution" was released on September 29.[46] It features McMahon performing the track, before being lured into the sea by the siren call of a mermaid. He attempts to resist, but ends up in the ocean.[42] The Glass Passenger was made available for streaming through Alternative Press' website on September 29,[45] before being released through Sire and Warner Bros. Records on September 30.[35][nb 1] Every edition of the album features the bonus track "Miss California";[48] the Japanese edition also includes the bonus track "Doris Day".[49] McMahon explained that while making "Miss California" he wasn't that impressed by, but by the time it came to mix it he highly enjoyed it and included it as bonus track to not disrupt the sequencing.[48]

The collectors edition CD/DVD combo included a short film "Choke, California", directed by James Minchin III.[50] Fans that pre-ordered the album at The Bamboozle festival were given a lithograph, a digital download copy of the album, and a photobook.[51] On October 2, the group performed "The Resolution" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.[45] In late May, the band said they were looking for original fanart to include in the music video for "Swim", which was filmed the following month[52] with director Steven Murashige.[53] An unofficial video, shot by director Emilio Martinez, consisted of touring footage and was released on June 11 to hold fans over until the official video was complete.[54] To promote Jack's Mannequin's appearance on tour with the Fray, the track was released as a single.[55] The official video premiered through AbsolutePunk on July 21.[56] McMahon said he wanted the official video to be about the human condition in general, rather than his own. Incorporating the fan art, the clip was turned into a "universal meditation on hope and perseverance."[57] A deluxe edition of the album was released on March 23, featuring the whole album, the In Valleys and The Ghost Underground EPs, along with additional live tracks and footage from touring.[58] Independent label Music on Vinyl re-pressed the album on vinyl in November 2018;[59] McMahon had spent the preceding year discussing a reissue of the release with his former label, who had no interest in doing it.[60]

Touring[edit]

A band performing onstage
Jack's Mannequin performing during their club tour, November 2008

In February 2008, the band went on a US college tour,[5] followed by an appearance at The Bamboozle festival in late May.[61] In July, the band participated on the Warped Tour,[62] before supporting Paramore on their headlining US tour in July and August.[63] In October and November, the band went on a club tour in the US titled Hammers and Strings: An Evening with Jack's Mannequin and The Glass Passenger. During the tour, they performed The Glass Passenger in its entirety. The group was supported Eric Hutshinson, Fun and Treaty of Paris on select dates.[64] In January 2009, the band performed a few shows in Japan, before appearing at Soundwave festival in Australia in February and March.[65] Following this, the band performed two shows in both Germany and the UK. The band then embarked on a tour of the US in April and May.[66]

Dubbed the Father from the Earth tour, the band was supported by Matt Nathanson, Low vs Diamond and Erin McCarley.[67] Prior to the tour taking place, a number of dates in both April and May were cancelled initially without reason.[68] Shortly afterwards, the band issued a statement where they mentioned they received a tour offer from the Fray. McMahon said he was "very interested but had not wanted to reschedule shows" as presale tickets had been sold.[69] However, when he became aware that Jack's Mannequin would be given a 60-minute support slot, it "gave [him] solace in the midst of a difficult decision."[69] The shows that were cancelled would be rescheduled sometime in the fall.[69] Between mid-June and early August, the band toured with the Fray across the US.[70] Following this, the group appeared at the Reading and Leeds Festivals in the UK.[71]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic63/100[72]
Review scores
SourceRating
AbsolutePunk88%[73]
AllMusic3/5 stars[74]
Alternative Press4.5/5 stars[75]
Entertainment WeeklyC+[76]
Melodic5/5 stars[77]
PopMatters5/10 stars[78]
Rock Sound7/10[20]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[79]
Spin3/5 stars[80]
Sputnikmusic4/5[19]

The Glass Passenger debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200, moving 49,000 units in its first week.[81] It also reached number 2 on Digital Albums,[82] number 3 on Alternative Albums[83] and Top Rock Albums,[84] and number 10 on the Top Tastemaker Albums chart.[85] "The Resolution" charted at number 27 on Alternative Songs[86] and number 28 on Triple A Songs.[87] "Swim" charted at number 34 on Adult Top 40.[88]

The Glass Passenger received generally favorable reviews from critics, according to review aggregation website Metacritic.[72] AbsolutePunk staff member Drew Beringer said the album's "variety and diversity" removes it from Transit and other pop releases.[73] He stated that both McMahon's lyrics and song structures "continue to get better" with McMahon "cement[ing] himself as the current scene’s best pop musician."[73] AllMusic reviewer Andrew Leahey wrote that the album's introspective narrative "sometimes pales in comparison to the summery songs" featured on Transit.[74] He added that it may not contain similar pop hooks as Transit, it "does stay afloat under the weight of McMahon's past, which bodes well for the songwriter's future work."[74] Annie Zaleski of Alternative Press noted that it was considerably "more complex and sophisticated" than Transit, and stated that a person doesn't need to know McMahon's life story to "relate to and resonate with his music", which in turn makes it "a fantastic, special album."[75] Entertainment Weekly's Jaya Saxena found the lyrics "often revealing" as McMahon comes across as "a bit bored" with him "forc[ing] clichéd metaphors into power ballads."[76] Making it two-thirds into the album, it's "too late; the ratio of chees to sincerity is just too high."[76]

Melodic reviewer Andrew Ellis said McMahon successfully followed Transit with a record that was "similar, yet somehow different" than his past work.[77] Though he mentioned it might not "seem as initially compelling" to Transit, the "glorious" melodies were clear evidence that the band surpassed the sophomore slump "with flying colours."[77] PopMatters editor Evan Sawdey referred to the album as a "half-baked collection" of tracks which "lose sight" of McMahon's strengths to focus more so on a "grandiose sense of self-importance."[78] He did note that it featured "even more orchestral flourishes, towering choruses, and dramatic lyrics" than those that graced Transit.[78] Rock Sound's Iain Moffat said McMahon did "a fine job ... exploring [mid-to-late-80s AOR with a] seldom-ploughed furrow."[20] Erica Futterman of Rolling Stone referred to the album as "a candid portrait of survival", adding that McMahon "made a more honest album than many of his emo peers."[79] Spin writer Jon Young said the album "match[es] hyperemotional melodies" with McMahon's "tender voice on dramatic tracks."[80] Sputnikmusic emeritus Athom wrote that the majority of the tracks, despite them being rooted in "typical pop-rock like broken hearts and separation", managed to pull off "as surprisingly personal."[19] Though McMahon's lyrics "occasionally falter", they come across as "stronger than they've even been" in spite of his vocals "occasionally falls short."[19]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Andrew McMahon.[9]

No.TitleLength
1."Crashin"4:06
2."Spinning"2:53
3."Swim"4:16
4."American Love"3:43
5."What Gets You Off"5:13
6."Suicide Blonde"3:28
7."Annie Use Your Telescope"3:08
8."Bloodshot"3:58
9."Drop Out – The So Unknown"3:33
10."Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby)"4:34
11."The Resolution"3:06
12."Orphans"2:39
13."Caves"8:19
Total length:56:54

Personnel[edit]

Personnel per booklet.[9]

Charts[edit]

Charts (2008) Peak
position
US Billboard 200[89] 8
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[83] 3
US Digital Albums (Billboard)[82] 2
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[84] 3
US Top Tastemaker Albums (Billboard)[85] 10

References[edit]

Footnotes

  1. ^ McMahon wanted to release the album under his own name, since it was mainly about his struggle with cancer, but was persuaded against it by his manager and label. They told him that Jack's Mannequin had a sizeable fanbase, and that it would be like starting fresh. McMahon retorted: "Why the f--- not try again? And if it does or doesn't work, at least I know I got out in front of my s--- and I didn't try and hide behind something."[47]

Citations

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  3. ^ * Supporting O.A.R.: "O.A.R. on Tour". O.A.R. Archived from the original on May 3, 2006. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
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