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Justin Courtney Pierre - 'An Anthropologist On Mars' EP Review


1. Dying To Know

2. I Hate Myself

3. Footsteps

4. Promise Not To Change

5. Illumination

With every band that has ever graced the glossy pages of Rock magazines, there has been a disconnect between the group at large and their main songwriter.

It’s not often discussed but there is usually one person who pens the genius behind each great band, and as a result it’s hard to disassociate the individual from their previous work.

When Motion City Soundtrack called it quits in 2016 (and declared themselves reunited in 2019), Justin Courtney Pierre decided to focus on solo material and released his debut album “In The Drink” in 2018.

Now, I have a confession to make - I am a very big fan of Justin’s. I’ve seen Motion City Soundtrack live twice, I’ve met them once, I’ve even covered one of their songs on YouTube and Justin has seen it (and approved). So it’s hard for me to review any of his work objectively.

With that in mind, I must say that I was not a fan of his debut solo album. It felt a little sluggish and it lacked the level of identity he usually imprints on his work.

I mention this because I was skeptical going into “An Anthropologist On Mars”, worrying that it would be a similar experience, and I am very happy to admit that I was worrying about nothing.

“An Anthropologist On Mars” welcomes back a lot of what made Motion City Soundtrack stand out - Justin’s quirky lyricisms, catchy melodies, and anthemic Indie Rock splattered with occasional Moog treatment. It has all of his old bands appealing qualities, without feeling like a desperate cling to his past.

The leading track “Dying To Know” is a fast and short burst of fun, with I Am The Movie era verses and a My Dinosaur Life style chorus, it’s an easy favourite from the release.

This is followed by “I Hate Myself” which has a bit of a Dad Rock feel to it, like Justin decided to channel Jimmy Eat World for 2 minutes, but kept his usual sense of honesty and wit to his lyrics.

The third track is the second single, “Footsteps” which has bass heavy verses and moody guitars. This song is probably the most significant in meaning and scope on the release (it’s also the longest song on the EP, capping off 10 seconds shy of 4 minutes). It has a darker turn to its verses, a bouncy chorus that splits back into a serious tone, and a surprising middle 8 of anthemic chanting that really takes the track to a new level.

The fourth track “Promise Not To Change” is like a small palette cleanser between tracks 3 and 5 that have more of the emotional weight of the EP overall. This song is fun and bright and persistent, with a similar feel to “Dying To Know”.

The final track “Illumination” is an interesting end, a piano lead pop-esque track. This track is probably the most ‘removed’ from his previous works in regards to its moving parts - subtle 50s esque “Oo” backing vocals, piano stabs throughout, full chords on a cleaner electric guitar. It still has the pace and push of his previous work but it feels a little more crafted and calm.

Overall this EP is surprising because it proves that Justin Courtney Pierre really was the main ingredient to Motion City Soundtrack’s magic, and that he hasn’t lost it as time has moved on.

He has managed to find a way to bring those strengths into his solo work, which was finding its feet on his previous release, and has found new ground to stand on.

While he isn’t necessarily treading new ground for himself or for the genre as a whole, it is still a step forward that appreciates and celebrates the steps already taken.

This EP is like a warm and welcoming hug from an old friend, after a year of cold distance due to the current pandemic, and I really needed it.

Review - Kayleigh Morgan


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