What I’m Listening To: Motion City Soundtrack – My Dinosaur Life

Written By Simon Chisholm

‘My Dinosaur Life’ is Motion City Soundtrack’s fourth album, and the first released on major label Columbia. My first MCS experience was back when Mark Hoppus was doing his ‘Hi My Name Is Mark’ podcast. In one of the first podcasts he played a MSC song. After that, it was not until Soundwave 2008, where their set kept me pleasantly entertained while waiting for Alexisonfire, that they made an impression, a big impression, and this release has made me very happy.

‘My Dinosaur Life’ stays true to classic Motion City Soundtrack. In terms of the vocal, I feel that Pierre’s vocals are unique and give that signature MCS sound. He delivers his lyrics with intensity, singing in an easy, flowing melodic contour with the occasional shriek. The melodies are very catchy, and ‘jumpy’, due to the swing in rhythms.

‘My Dinosaur Life’ is up-beat pop-punk with a dark approach to lyrical content. The boys have delivered a classic pop-punk sound with a coarse edge lending a feeling of animosity. The lyrics deliver verses of inner turmoil, owning up to wrongs committed, and generally ‘talking’ through personal issues. Many of the songs tend to tell a story, beginning with a complication and working through a resolution and self-realisations.

I like the chorus in ‘Pulp Fiction’, it is not a single hook, rather a long description with no repetition as is traditional in pop choruses.

Instrumentally, MCS have stuck to the music visions previously established in previous releases. By that I’m talking about thumping guitars, heavy crunch guitar tones, pop-punk bass grooves, and fun and up-beat drum lines. All of the instrumentation has a crunchy intensity, even the vocals have an angry crunch. At times it sounds as though the band is simply jamming while the tape is recording, which has you dancing away think ‘This is fun!’

‘My Dinosaur Life’ is a great way to spend 40 minutes, you’ll come away feeling much more content with life, and wanting to hit the ‘Play’ button again.

Motion City Soundtrack is:

Justin Pierre – Vocals, guitar

Joshua Cain – Guitar, vocals

Jesse Johnson – Synth, keys

Matthew Taylor – Bass, vocals

Tony Thaxton – Drums, vocals

‘My Dinosaur Life’ released Jan 2010 by Columbia Records. Produced by Mark Hoppus.

What I’m Listening To: Motion City Soundtrack – My Dinosaur Life

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What I’m Listening To: Anarbor – The Words You Don’t Swallow

Written By Simon Chisholm

Anarbor’s debut album is a collection of high-energy rock and roll tracks. This album is a fun listen from start to finish and will leave you feeling as though you just attended the party of the year. I believe ‘The Words You Don’t Swallow’ lives up to the hype and delivers on the potential offered by 2009’s ‘Free Your Mind’ E.P.

This release is infested with a slew of catchy hooks in both the vocals and guitar riffs. The easy melodies just make the whole thing infectious.

The foundations of the tracks are in the grooves, established by a combination of the drums, bass and guitar riffs. Every song has a fun groove, executed with ease. You can imagine the enjoyment of the band playing these tracks. I feel that during the writing process the boys took an approach where they aimed for what felt right, and these boys are all about the music, and love to groove. 

Anarbor have stuck to a simple rock band format; Overdrive Guitars, Electric Bass, Drum Kit, and Vocals. Even so, the band has managed to create a thick texture, through use of riffs, bass grooves and skill. This simplified approach to instrumentation gives the tracks room to breath, and causes the tracks to stand out in the stormy seas of contemporary music.

The drums occupy a large space in the mix, supplying a powerful percussive presence. These drum lines will have you toe tapping and air drumming in no time at all.

Notable tracks include; ‘Cantagious’; ‘Drugstore Diet’; ‘Gypsy Woman’; ‘Going To Jail’; ‘Carefree Highway’; ‘This Can’t Be Healthy’; and ‘Useless’.

After the release of this album, Anarbor released a Mixtape of remixed, tracks and covers. This free download will give you a taste of what these boys are about. If the opening remix of ‘Contagious’ doesn’t have you hooked, this isn’t for you. <http://anarbor.net/mixtape/&gt;

Anarbor is:

Slade Echeverria – Vocals, Bass

Mike Kitlas – Guitar, Vocals

Adam Juwig – Guitar, Vocals

Greg Garrity – Drums, Vocals

‘The Words You Don’t Swallow’ released April 2010 by Hopeless Records. Produced by Mike Green.

What I’m Listening To: Anarbor – The Words You Don’t Swallow

What I’m Listening To: Chaz Knapp – Vie comme un Parasite Faisant la fête

Written By Simon Chisholm

I came across the amazing Chaz Knapp after stumbling upon a series of video works entitle “50 People One Question”. I was so moved by the soundtrack he had provided for the work ‘London’ I went searching. The piece on the London video is entitled ‘Célébration à une Nouvelle Vie’, and can be found on the free online release ‘Vie comme un Parasite Faisant la fête’.

Chaz Knapp is one of those artists who has an impeccable knack for creating beautiful music. He has used very simple instrumentation to create moving sound-scapes that leave you relaxed, calm and excited for more. This album revolved around a piano, with violins and cello swaying around the motifs.

The compositions seem to revolve around a theme and variation style of structure. There is an overall theme and tone to the compositions, and as they progress countermelodies and variations swim around the central theme. Sections are formed through this repetition and theme building. The songs flow effortlessly, changing and taking shape almost unnoticeably. This use of repetition and variation creates movement. The ebb and flow of the songs strike visions of a creel running over pebbles, of swaying trees and falling leaves.

The songs seem to be made up of harmonic progressions that mysteriously never seem to end. The repetitions are hidden amongst the countermelodies.

Knapp has used sounds and instrumentation that are not of the traditional studio ‘perfect’ quality. These organic sounds are far more real than sound recorded ‘properly’ in the studio. You can hear imperfections on the attacks and in the room reverberation. These ‘imperfections’ are not errors. They add to the organics of the sound. The ‘imperfections’ are, in fact, ‘perfect. Knapp has also made a creative use of a click track or metronome and static as  percussive devices.

You can feel the striking, resonating sounds in your whole body. This release works well as background music, and is enjoyable to listen to with full attention. I find that I do not want to write about this music, I would rather sit back and enjoy listening to this truly wonderful work of art.

Close your eyes and let the music take you away.

My favourite track is ‘Célébration à une Nouvelle Vie’, which is featured on the Fifty People London video.

Fifty People One Question – London – Where Do You Want To Wake Up Tomorrow?

Released online in 2008.

Available for free download here: http://www.archive.org/details/ChazKnapp-VieCommeUnParasiteFaisantLaFte

What I’m Listening To: Chaz Knapp – Vie comme un Parasite Faisant la fête

What I’m Listening To: Taylor Swift – Speak Now

Written By Simon Chisholm

Taylor Swift’s third studio album ‘Speak Now’ was released in October 2010. In the few months since release, ‘Speak Now’ has been certified three times platinum in the USA and two times platinum in Australia, and peaked at number one on the Aria Charts in 2010, a monumental feat. This is an album that acts as an extension of Swift’s musical ability from Fearless (six times platinum in USA, five times platinum in Aus). An almost annoyingly infectious collection of tracks, Swift’s blend of country and pop genres will have you singing, dancing, crying and laughing in no time.

Breaking it down, this is essentially an album of love songs. We hear of current and past relationships, the good times and the bad, as well as just having a good time. The lyric content appeals to an adolescent audience. 

This album is way too ‘poppy’ for it’s own good. The songs are incredibly infectious.

Sonically, the sound is clean and crisp. Each of the sounds has a punch. Each track has a lot of presence, boasting fat mids. These qualities make these songs perfect for radio and making kids dance.

All of the tracks boast a smooth melodic contour, making the songs easy to sing along with and generally aesthetically pleasing. Each line reads like a narrative; that is beginning with a complication and then resolving in a perfect cadence, ending in a tonic chord. Taylor’s voice is flawless with no auto tune correction. One has to admire a pop artist who needs no computerised editing to sing well. It’s like a breath of fresh air in today’s pop world. There is not a lot of dynamic range in the voice. The vocal has been compressed and mixed so that quiet passages are matched to louder, more passionate passages. 

Taylor is very much enhanced by her backing band. The instrumentation is flawless, executed with precision.

Each track has a thick texture, a full sound. The instruments are layered and mixed in such a way that it is as if you are hit with a wall of sound; it’s hard. But there are cushions, and when you fall back its into a pool of love…oh Taylor…ahem.

It is no secret that Taylor Swift is a country artist. She has bridged the gap into pop music by creating songs that appeal to a more mainstream audience. This country music has been heavily ‘popified’. Some country elements present include: violin/fiddle providing lead passages, and vocal stylings; especially the accent and cadences (‘yoooouuuuu’ is ‘Sparks).

‘Mean’ is very country. We hear a banjo, mandolin, typical country rhythms, accent, cadences, an oom-pa bass line, slide steel, fiddle, bass and snare drums, and the subject matter: ‘Some day I’ll be living in a big ol’ citay’.

On the other end of the scale, ‘The Story Of Us’ is a no holds barred power pop track. Boasting dance drums, muted distorted guitar, guitar leads, tonic bass line, a powerful chorus, verses that tell a story and a pre-chorus that heightens anticipation. Overall, it’s a fun track.

Other notable tracks include; ‘Enchanted’, ‘Sparks Fly’, ‘Mean’, ‘The Story Of Us’, ‘Better Than Revenge’( for the ‘waaaaoooooo’ and associated reverb), and ‘Haunted (for the strings and piano track). ‘Speak Now’ also has the typical ballad. In this case it is the track entitled ‘Never Give Up’.

In ‘Enchanted’ the vocals flow like a soft wind and feature falsetto slurps. The line ‘This Love Is Golden’ opens the chorus and really set the whole tone of the song. Let’s not forget the fact that there are Timpani! Timpani! HA.

The theatrical elements are a nice touch, adding to the element of fun. In some songs you’ll hear spoken word, such as ‘Next chapter’, and ‘Now go and think about what you did!’ Also you can hear theatrics in her singing voice; excitement and melancholy. You hear shaking and quivering, for example the climax in ‘Better Than Revenge’. Looking at the album as a whole, the songs are ordered in such a way that listening from start to finish is just as dramatic, blending the up-beat songs and more melancholy tracks. Making the body of work a narrative with the rising and falling emotions.

I could say that this is my guilty pop pleasure, but there is no way anyone could escape the infectious melodies. The high energy, up-beat tracks are just so well constructed! The way the tracks are mixed, the full, thick texture are a pleasure to listen to.

The Extended Edition has 3 extra tracks, 5 new versions and a DVD feature. The extra tracks make for a long listen, but more is better in this case.

To clear up some of those numbers, in the USA platinum equals 1,000,000 (one million) copies shipped (at least 3 million copies shipped to get to triple platinum). In Australia platinum equals 70,000 (seventy thousand) shipments (at least 140,000 copies shipped). That is a lot of copies in circulation.

Also note that Taylor is credited with writing ALL of the tracks.

Released 2010 by Big Machine Records. Produced by Nathan Chapman and Taylor Swift.

What I’m Listening To: Taylor Swift – Speak Now