Album Reviews – 21/12/09

Jack’s Mannequin / Dear Jack DVD

This documentary from Jack’s Mannequin gives fans an hour long glance at the challenges faced by singer Andrew McMahon (also of Something Corporate), in 2004/2005 as he wrote and recorded his first solo album, got diagnosed with Leukemia, and then fought through the disease in a California hospital. McMahon, who was already preparing a documentary about the recording process of his solo debut Everything in Transit, remains dedicated to documenting even the most personal moments of his battle with cancer, and the film includes scenes where he deals with hair loss brought on by chemotherapy, receives spinal taps, and faces numerous personal crises in hospital. At times, it seems as though this documentary could be documenting the death of a musician, as his family reflects back on moments of his childhood such as when he began to play piano and some of his first performances.

It’s McMahon’s family and his girlfriend Kelly, who later becomes his wife, who help him survive the disease – literally in the case of his sister, who provides him with life-saving bone marrow. Ironically, the day of the bone marrow transplant was also the day Everything in Transit was released, debuting at #37 on the Billboard 200. The film leaves McMahon shortly after his first public performance following the treatment, a show that celebrated his 100th day after receiving his sister’s stem cells.

McMahon’s story is touching and inspiring, especially to anyone who has had cancer threaten the life of a loved one, and the story is all the more poignant because of the soundtrack provided by Jack’s Mannequin. The songs work excellently to reflect the struggles in Andrew and Kelly’s relationship, his mounting depression over the treatment, and the victory he ultimately achieves over the disease.

 

Animal Collective / Fall Be Kind EP / Domino

On Fall Be Kind, the Maryland group spends four songs setting listeners adrift, casually nudging them off the dock like a calm tide from Merriweather Post Pavilion, the beach house where they spent the summer, towards a chilly sea. You can practically feel the snow start to fall during the stormy closer “I Think I Can.” Most of the tracks still exude the surreal, but “On A Highway” hints at a buzz-killing reality looming over the horizon.

Download: “What Would I Want? Sky”
 

Blakroc / Blakroc / V2

Someone who didn’t have their ear turned to the ground at the proper angle probably missed out on hearing about Blakroc entirely. Sadly, this meant most went without hearing the products of the collaboration between genre-crossing heavyweights The Black Keys and a mitt full of hip hop luminaries including Mos Def, RZA, Ludacris, and even Ol’ Dirty Bastard from beyond the grave. The Black Keys are pros at making their presence heard through wavering guitar solos, soulful backup vocals, and gloriously funky drumming, but there are also times that they slide back perfectly into the pocket – almost until you forget they’re there entirely – making the verses offered up by the featured rappers seem all the more intimate and off the cuff.

Download: “Coochie,” “On The Vista”

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