Alt Tuesday: Motion City Soundtrack

I need to be honest with myself here. I knew I would be writing this review eventually. When people ask me the whole “If you could only take one album onto a desert island to listen to for the rest of forever, what would it be” question, I always respond with this: Motion City Soundtrack’s Commit This To Memory.

The album is a gem from start to finish, displaying well-structured songs that are made unique by a pop punk synth sound from keyboardist Jesse Johnson and drummer Tony Thaxton. Justin Pierre, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist, makes this album heartfelt and emotionally accessible. A recovering addict with low self-esteem, Pierre comes across as a real, genuine person with real problems.

The album starts out with the genius “Attractive Today,” a two-minute punch in the face (metaphorically) that lets the listener know that Pierre is “wrecked,” “overblown,” and “fed up with the fucking common cold.” Pierre just wants to feel attractive for once… and, really, don’t we all? There is then a smooth transition into the lead single, “Everything Is Alright.” The track has a wonderful hook and honest verses, and is brought home by some guest vocals by Patrick Stump in the bridge.

Other standouts on the album are… well, all of them. There is not a single track on this album that I can say is weak. “Resolution” is a personal favorite in which Pierre expresses his disdain for the New Years holiday and the arbitrary nature of New Years resolutions. “Time Turned Fragile” is a fast-paced track with a lot of back and forth in dynamics and rhythms. Not to mention a beastly drum part in the bridge that showcases Thaxton’s endless bank of creative rhythms.

The one potential negative I can say about this album is that it does not exactly have a lot of variety in the genre of the songs. Motion City Soundtrack does pop punk with synth thrown in very, very well. And I think they know that. So they stick to a singular sound and show all the different ways that you can display that you’ve mastered it. If you like either of the videos I embedded, I can guarantee you that you’ll love the rest of the album, too. And who knows? Maybe you’ll want it on a desert island someday, too.

Alt Tuesday: fun.

It has been a long time since I have been so excited about a new release the week that it is released. The norm for bands these days is to continue re-releasing their first album with a twist on their lyrics and the rhythm of each track. But fun. has clearly gone against the grain and decided to be ambitious with its second release, Some Nights (released Feb. 21 on Fueled by Ramen).

The first track, “Some Nights Intro,” does an unbelievable job setting the tone, building gradually with Freddie Mercury-style vocals. The song comes to a climactic ending with lead singer Nate Ruess confidently hitting notes that are no where near the register of most singers. This leads directly into what I presume will be the second single, “Some Nights.” An anthemic track layered with a plethora of vocal harmonies, “Some Nights” keeps the energy of the album at an incredible high.

The lead single comes in the three spot (as on every other album that anyone’s ever made… ever) and features R&B singer Janelle Monae. Although the song has an undeniable hook, the cameo by Monae is very much unrecognizable and understated.  However, the chorus has been resonating over the airwaves for a couple of months now and there’s a reason for that.

Successful genre experimentation is one extremely unique quality of Some Nights. Stand out tracks include “Why Am I The One,” laced with clever lyricism and honesty that makes the listener believe the sincerity of Ruess’ heartbreak. It ends with a wonderful, fluttering string arrangement that gave me chills the first time I heard it. “All Alone” experiments with a hip-hop beat in the verses and “One Step” uses a big horn section to drive the song from start to end.

After several listens through Some Nights, I had difficulty picking out my favorite track because there were simply so many strong candidates. fun. has done something truly ambitious by experimenting with different genres and creating an album that is truly unique in an otherwise stale field of pop rock artists.

Alt Tuesday: Metric

Good lyrics are hard to come by these days. Not to call any modern acts out (except the Goo Goo Dolls… see below), but if you listen to a lot of different bands within the same genre, you aren’t going to have to think a lot to figure out what each metaphor means. For God’s sake, the number of times “And you bleed just to know you’re alive” has been regurgitated as a lyric is ridiculous. But Emily Haines breaks down those walls with her lyricism on Metric’s 2009 album Fantasies.

The opening track, “Help I’m Alive” is a radio gem, with a wonderful hook and thoughtful lyrics. She hypnotically sings “Help I’m alive my heart keeps beating like a hammer / Hard to be soft, Tough to be tender.” Clever lyricism? Check. The trend continues onto the second track of the album, “Sick Muse” (see video below). This song is catchy and guitar driven, but the lyrics stand out yet again. “Watch out, Cupid stuck me with a sickness / Pull your little arrows out and let me live my life” If you ask me, that is the kind of imagery and thought that is missing in much modern music.

Stylistically, Metric isn’t necessarily doing anything innovative, but the band’s music is convincingly well crafted. The group’s use of synthesizers and keyboards is well placed and complementary to the strong melodies that come from lead guitarist James Shaw and Haines.  Haines’ sweet voice shines through on amazing spacey tracks like “Twilight Galaxy” and the radio single “Gold, Guns, Girls.”

The line “Who would you rather be / The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” is a particular piece of brilliance that can be heard on “Gimme Sympathy.” The kind of thought process that goes into these lyrics is clearly far superior to the other minds in the indie field. I would highly suggest Fantasies as a gateway into the less accessible earlier Metric albums if you have a thing for thoughtful indie synth pop.

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