Sound — 10
The CD opens up with a Moog flourish, one of the many that set this CD apart from others. The arrangement on "Cambridge" has the vocal line, chord changes and a seemingly 'outside' lead guitar line. The "cover your eyes" part is extremely catchy, and emotionally charged. The song closes with an faster drum line and a repeated chorus of "far away," which is exactly where this band is coming from. Shiver opens up, by adding a simple percussive guitar riff to the end of Cambridge. The moog and guitar come in perfectly, and drums lead directly into the vocals. There are many themes in singer Justin Pierre's lyrics, such as movies and screenwriting (see Autographs and Apologies.) The lyrics are structured enough to be catchy with the melody. The 'woot-woo's on the chorus add for something else to listen for. Simple guitar solo, memorable and catchy. Repetition of the first verse, very strong with a different feel, and some altered words. Smart move. All in all, there is a plethora of musical layering to listen for in this song. The Future Freaks Me Out is clearly the album's single. The words are poppy, the melody sticks in your head, and for the musician, intuitive listener or fan, there are enough layers to get stuck in. As a musician, and music theory fanatic, this song is a perfect example of how Justin Pierre manages to sing outside of the chord changes. This is evident on many tracks, but especially in the chorus of Future. Justin's voice is clearly strong, because he can hold his own above an accompianment that is complex and bizarre, especially for a pop song. The bridge is the best part of the song, as far as I'm concerned. Every band member shows their talent, especially in a live show, when all three guitarists(/bassist) sing over eachother, the Moog plays its own thing that somehow melts into the other music, and the drums lie right where they should for the song. The "ah, fuck it" is so perfectly timed that the musician laughs, and the fans shout along. Perfect transition to the chorus, and a fade out. This is one of the songs that makes me question whether Justin Pierre is just a silly pop-song writer or a musical genius. The mood sets in for Indoor Living, as the guitar and drums set up a nice vibe. The song kicks in, with just enough feedback and countermelody to make it interesting as well as catchy. Justin's voice co-incides with the second voice on the verses. The moog transition into the chorus is just enough to make the listener aware. Hits are perfect in the chorus, and the moog arpeggio at the end is smart, it sets up a good V (5) chord. Bass drum hits are sporadic, yet punctuated as the band kicks in the second verse and chorus. The bass drum is always strong with Motion City Soundtrack (listen to Cambridge for the bass drum, and you'll know what I mean). The instrumental bridge crescendos nicely into a final chorus, which brings the song to a nice close. The song ends with the very frank 'I'm just gonna let you down." as the band continues to reflect over Justin's words. The music ends just as frankly. Clearly the saddest, most emo song of them all is My Favorite Accident. The band favors changes that compliment the melody, and a moog line that nestles itself right in. Listen to how Justin doubles the moog melody in the verses. The drum picks up in the second half of the verse, and there's almost a contrapuntal effect for those 4 bars. The chorus, all instruments work in conjunction to form a uniform sound that allows each member to be heard, not just melt together. For the second verse, the drum hits match perfectly with the vocals, and the feel change feels like a tempo change. Sudden change to chorus with nice hits and countermelody as usual, allowing the moog to move to the front of the sound occasionally. The "we could have been" is a good thrashing moment, dwelling on the loss. Justin then sings a final, most insightful verse over a clean guitar in one channel. This is a popular, yet very effective move, and it makes the transition into the chorus that much more powerful. Same vibe for the outro, fade, very powerful. Rim knocks on Perfect Teeth are a smart alternative to the hi-hat. After the first couplet, when the drums come in complete with cymbals, the effect is all that stronger. Justin reminisces in one of many songs about the 1980s, over a barely audible guitar for first half that grows more audible hits in second. Chorus, with the snare drum hits on every beat compliments the syncopated chorus, and manages to keep the song moving. There's another screenwriting reference here. The bridge is a great shout-along, with beautiful moog lines and a good 'fall-out,' only to come back in with a lighter vibe. Motion City Soundtrack is very good at writing music to shape their lyrics, making them popular, singable and fun. They use more than the typical pop song structure, and shape the music to their message. The songwriting on this song is very underrrated. After six lighter songs and slower numbers, Motion City kicks up the adrenaline for Boombox Generation, another song that pays homage to the '80s. The lyrics are not exactly as insightful as other songs, but it makes for a fun song. All of the members' individual musical skills are clearly on display. More drums, less moog, which is appropriate, considering the nature of the song. I love how the drums match the guitar line, and propel the band at the same time. More moog breaks, which is one of the many things moog is very good for. The nature of the instrument is that its sound is very distinct, and therefore can only be melodic, hardly ever harmonic. Possibly the fastest and most brutal songs, Don't Call It A Comeback is full of shout-along lyrics and a fun, catchy content laden with countermelody and layers. Feedback and moog. Moog maintains the same pattern for most of the song, which only adds to the cohesiveness of the music. Drums really shine here, with snare fills and bass drum all over, but not tastelessly. The song builds, as Justin screams over a eighth-note bass drum feel that bleeds right into a final shout-along, and fades out, not even bothering to say goodbye. Modern Chemistry is another sad number. Just like "My Favorite Accident," the band favors more complementary, albeit less interesting chord changes. Justin's break into falsetto during the chorus is enough to crack through the melody, once again letting everyone know just how good he is. The band propels the lyrics, without being too noticeable, considering this is one of the strongest songs on the album, lyrically-speaking. The chorus is once again laden with countermelodies and layers, this time with some of the nicest chord changes on the album. Vocal countermelody only adds to the musicality of the song. The 'whoa whoa woo woo' part keeps the chord changes, drops the drums and lightens up. An excellent technique, made evident by fans singing the 'woo woo's back at live shows. Excellent. And suddenly, as if to save Justin from the perils of his depression, Capital H breaks onto the scene in a lovably fun song with a catchy moog line and a melody that is both shoutable and singable. The band gels for the hits in the intro, and when Justin finally comes in, the fun is almost palpable. The song is repetitive, but the chorus is catchy, and there's just a fun aspect to the song. In the second verse, the high voices drop out, as if the band is sensitive to Capital H's hangover as Justin sings it. But when there's trouble afoot, Capital H comes out of his hangover to save the world, and his moog comes in with him for the chorus. The crescendos on the bridge are great filler, but the 'tonight, tonight,' on earlier versions were omitted, which I don't get. The chorus comes back in with all the members alive and kicking, Capital H is alive and well, and everyone is out to celebrate. The second vocals come in with 'songs from the balcony...' at just the right volume, as if Capital H has triumphed, and the evil doctor rocket science monster is gone, the world is at peace. The Red Dress is a fun shout-along about, you guessed it, a girl in a red dress. The moog complements Justin, who is supported by lead and rhythm guitar lines. Instrumentals are a great part of their arrangements, in that they tie the music together, and are almost movements of their own. There's independent melodic content, and a listener may feel like it's an independent song. The drum fill before the moog solo is nice. The bridge vocals complement what the listener thought was moog solo, as it becomes a countermelody. Justin sings 'well bring the house down' over nothing but a bass note, only to repeat it with the whole band coming in to help. Probably my least favorite song, Mary Without Sound exhibits all the characteristics of a good Motion City song. However, I can't get over the lyrics and can't seem to find a meaning in the 'Mary without sound' chorus. I just don't get it. However there is great songwriting in the 'without sound' theme being repeated throughout the song. The lead guitar is definitely underrated. Another moog transition into the shout-along 'it's a battle you can't win/it's a battle you lose.' More layering, and Motion City Soundtrack manages to pick up the loose ends of Mary Without Sound, and tie them into a final chorus and repitition of the reason the song was written in the first place. This song is so sad. Really, I can't think of a better way to put it, it's just sad. I Justin apologizes for apathy and talks about having no idea where he's going in life. The arrangement is just as strong, and the mood of the song shows how versatile this band really is. They use the same techniques in the fun songs, such as moog transitions and tricky changes, in this one. And somehow everything melts together in a huge musical apology and expression of true worry. The same girl in "My Favorite Accident," the same medication in "Modern Chemistry" and the same anguish of "Indoor Living" all come together as the protagonist breaks down. Tastefully, I might add. Don't worry. Everything will be A-OK. That's the message of the last song. Justin recounts the old demons and themes (Without medicine...) in a new light. He speaks genuinely and intelligently. The band complements him the whole way through, with more moog lines and layers to come along too. Someday you'll understand that everything is A-OK. All in all, Motion City Soundtrack is a band that mixes a variety of influences to create a sound that is both old and new, familiar and out of this world, and either way, it makes us want to listen. Justin Pierre is either a trial-and-error punk writer, or a musical genius; I can't quite tell yet. Either way this album makes a profound statement, both musically and lyrically. Definitive songs: The Future Freaks Me Out, Capital H, My Favorite Accident.
Lyrics — 10
Motion City Soundtrack has a skill for shaping songs to their needs. The lyrics are fun and catchy; they never lose that pop appeal. However, in songs like "Perfect Teeth," they move outside the typical pattern.
Overall Impression — 10
All in all, Motion City Soundtrack is a band that mixes a variety of influences to create a sound that is both old and new, familiar and out of this world, and either way, it makes us want to listen. Justin Pierre is either a trial-and-error punk writer, or a musical genius; I can't quite tell yet. Either way this album makes a profound statement, both musically and lyrically. Definitive songs: The Future Freaks Me Out, Capital H, My Favorite Accident. Listen to the MCS/Schatzi split version of Capital H. So much better!