Music Saved My Life: Jack's Mannequin
In our series, 'Music Saved My Life' we examine songs, artists and albums that have shaped our own history, coping and ultimately had a hand in saving us in times of need.
This is a story about overcoming the odds, and the subtlety of songs that makes your fights bearable. I awoke to a string of phone calls…My thoughts rushing through me, creating this now frozen terrain. ”Do I owe bills?” Did I forget something?” in these selfish seconds my father’s body was slowly unraveling. That gut feeling, the butterflies that turn into ravenous waves within you, were crashing. Cue the long drive, the panic attacks, the worry framed over my sisters face and the tears that washed over us. No words were able to console everything felt like we were suspended in to space. I knew nothing in those moments, but my body did. I reached for my phone and pressed play and in that moment the healing began. I didn’t know it at the time but there was hope sonically rushing through my ears. I just had to listen.
‘Everything in Transit’ by Jack’s Mannequin is probably remembered as 2005’s emo album of the year. With a heart throb as it’s lead singer and it’s frequent play on teen drama television it’s no wonder ‘Everything in Transit’ is cherished from everyone who frequented Hollister to Indie elitists. But to me, it’s that childhood blanket I reach for in times in of need. The first time I heard ‘Everything in Transit’ I was your typical 13 year old girl. I was angsty, sneaking onto aim at all hours of the nite, constantly illegally downloading music to my iPod mini and secretly battling my eating disorder. Those songs on ‘Everything in Transit’ synchronized themselves perfectly through the steps of agony I’ve been in. Each track holds a key, you could be in the midst of pain, holding on to it, navigating it and conquering it throughout the album.
‘Holiday From Real’ is the first track off ‘Everything in Transit,’ it starts with lead singer and songwriter, Andrew McMahon’s signature synchronized chord progressions and emo vocal tone. McMahon sings of the quintessential california dream, the one where the sun's rays flourish our serotonin and we walk the piers hand in hand. Dreaming of a place where worry seems to casually roll off us chill Californians. But the song structures itself more eloquently than I could ever write. ‘Holiday From Real’ dissipates your anxieties and brings you into it’s calm dystopia. It’s not just a clever play on words; the song creates a holiday from your reality.
The most infamous track (fans of One Tree Hill you know this one) ‘The Mixed Tape’ holds every high pitched emo frequency and thrashing that could only be executed by the kings of 2000’s pop punk. Why did it stand out? Why did I spend hours learning to play it? Because it rings true to the core of all us emo kids, that I just want to yell and I want to feel. In these times, screaming, jumping and thrashing are our only coping tools we have. McMahon ushers a call into the track, yelling, “Where are you now?” And suddenly you feel something. You know exactly what he is talking about. Where do people go when shit hits the fan? And why I am alone in this? That anger and heat rising in us, this is the song to release that. We’ve left our worlds and on the way we’ve found the strength to express our feelings.
Sometimes you just need to throw yourself into a song, and that’s exactly what ‘Bruised’ does. That light piano trickling in the foreground calms you but that tattering sound of the drum drives you to dance it out. Andrew McMahon mimics the feeling of physical pain and manifests it into song. There are receptors in your brain that shoot pain singles into you and sometimes those pain singles create an annoyance commonly found in ourselves when were hurting instead of reminding us that we are in fact in distress. Those feelings are beautifully put by McMahon when he says, “I swear I didn’t mean for it to feel like this- like every inch of me is bruised”. Holding on to that pain, control and fear or holding on to the last things you have; they can be comforting when everything is falling apart. As I relapsed time and time again, this rang true. I wanted control, in this ideal world I had created for myself. Starving was working for me but the pain, it spoke to me when McMahon sang, “Sometimes perfection can be, it can be perfect hell, perfect.” Through ‘Bruised’ I learned to release the pain, to treat pain as the disease it is. But in those moments that I clung to the disease, ‘Bruised’ gave me the courage to release it little by little.
With every inch of heartbreak there comes the rally of people behind you, whether you feel it or not a presence remains beside you always. It took me a long time to remember that and it still does... that’s where “La La Lie” comes in. A story of hope and falsehoods that ultimately shape our destiny. You know when your friends tell you “It isn't that bad” when you get a groupon haircut. “Is it that bad?” you begin to think. Or was that what you needed to hear in the moment? It’s those instances that, what may be perceived as a lie become reality; altering our narratives for happier times. And for god sake sometimes you need someone to just come out and say “You’re okay” when it isn’t. When I listen to “La La Lie” I thank the people around me who rallied when there wasn’t a light in site. We may not be able to see this light, we may not ever feel it. But “La La Lie” is for those who need a moment to feel hope when hope is lost.
When you hit rock bottom, you don’t know it but you can feel it. “Dark Blue” somehow pauses the planets alignment to make you examine the trauma you’ve faced. The classic stages of pain render themselves in the start of the song “I have you breathing down my neck, breathing down my neck” and then there's the attitude we give off when people ask you how you are in times of need, “I don't, don't know what you could possibly expect under this condition-so”. What makes it emo and relatable is the satisfaction of hearing McMahon say, “I'll wait, I'll wait for the ambulance to come ambulance to come pick us up off the floor. What did you possibly expect under this condition, so” those lines embody my exact feeling towards obvious despair. McMahon lets us relish in the sadness, he also makes you take pause and reassess your situation. With the simplest of answers we are to look at the wonder of the sea. Like the forces of nature, cruel and simultaneously beautiful the ocean shows us its darkness and its allure. With those struggles looming over, McMahon begs for us to look up as he croons, “This night’s a perfect shade of dark blue”.
My ultimate favorite track and go to sob session resides in Jack’s Mannequins song ‘Rescued’. When life is crashing all around you and you start to give in to those dark thoughts ‘Rescued’ is your friend. McMahon shares his own account of wanting not to be saved throughout the song. He quietly revisits the strength of love surrounding him but ultimately asks for no savior in this narrative. With sadness comes acceptance of your circumstances and there are moments, many I have faced myself that at the time I accepted letting go. Now this isn’t to add to our demons, but to remember how lost we can feel as times. Andrew McMahon asks us to revisit our pain, and he does the same for himself as he recites his battle with Leukemia frequently in the song. This is not to drive us into darkness but to find resilience in the truth of the matter.
I hope these songs, aid your struggles in life. May you find comfort in my story and the stories of others. I hope they cure you, if even for 3 minutes. I hope that the seasonal depression I casually laugh off doesn’t follow me into every year. Yearning for a healthy relationship with food instead of a battle day by day would be nice. And I pray that my family doesn’t go through more trauma. But when I can’t get out of bed and stare at my food I know what I’ll be listening too. The rush of Jack’s Mannequins hammers and strings will ease the trouble I face and I hope it helps you too. I could write and talk on and on and on about this album and its importance to me and the healing it’s lent but I’ll end my cheesy story telling, with this. ”This is my mixtape for her..it’s like I wrote every note with my own fingers.”