Justin Courtney Pierre "In the Drink" Review

In the Drink - Justin Courtney Pierre

In the Drink, the debut solo effort from former Motion City Soundtrack vocalist Justin Courtney Pierre, focuses on all the trademarks that make his songwriting unique and special, while also introducing elements and ideas unexplored in his previous musical endeavors. The record can be upbeat and pop-influenced, it can take darker and moodier turns at times, all while maintaining a cohesive feel and energy that is instantly recognizable as Justin Courtney Pierre.

From the first notes of the opening track “Undone,” there is a familiar air about the music, as Justin, accompanied by just a single strumming guitar, sings about how no matter what he tried to do or how he tried to accomplish it, “the whole thing came undone.” This honest account of a man feeling down on his luck and like a lost cause is one that is incredibly relatable, but still presented in a unique and witty way that is identifiably Justin Pierre. As the song progresses, additional instrumentation builds around Pierre’s voice, before leading into track two, “Anchor,” which introduces itself with an infectious sing-along vibe as Justin sings about his many quirks and nuances, and about needing someone to fall back on and to support him in spite of those faults.

The record next presents a slew of blink-and-you-miss-it tunes with “I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away,” a synth-pop-rock anthem familiar to fans of Pierre, “Moonbeam,” a mellow tune that pushes into new sonic territory with an electronic and bass guitar-driven sound, and “Ready Player One,” which presents a new outlook as the chorus loudly proclaims “I was afraid but now I’m ready.” Each of these three songs clock in at just over two minutes apiece, making the middle section of the album fly by very quickly and leaving the listener longing for more, eagerly anticipating the next half of the record. “I’m a Liar” again slows the pace down, exploring a more reflective side of Pierre, as he sings about being unsure, distant, and growing older, a sentiment to which many can relate. “Sooner” and “Shoulder the Weight” pick the energy back up, the latter being driven by a thick, gritty bass groove that is a particular highlight of the track, switching up the typical guitar or synth-led composition of the album.

The title track “In the Drink” is a classic example of everything listeners have come to love about Justin Pierre’s songwriting. It is fast, catchy, and energetic, and perfectly sums up the record and the individual in a single song. The record caps off with “Goodnight Hiroyuki,” which utilizes the trademark synthesizer sound in such a way that adds a droning effect, as the atmosphere created by these is one of chaos or alarm, a sharp contrast to Justin’s calm and soothing vocals.

Fans of Pierre’s previous work will undoubtedly enjoy In the Drink, but this record proves that there is much more to Justin Courtney Pierre’s musicianship and songwriting chops than what he has previously done. This record tackles new sounds explores new themes and breathes new life into a familiar face. Boundaries are being pushed, risks are being taken, and the payoffs are incredibly satisfying. This record is an enjoyable ride from start to finish.

Review by Trevor Hancock