(feat. track – “Delirium”)

One of the trickiest parts of doing my Top Ten each year is that, inevitably, December rolls around and I have a massive stack of stuff from the last year that, for one reason or another, I haven’t gotten around to listening to yet.  And so I spend all of December cramming (when I’m not rocking out to my favorite holiday jingles).  It’s worth it – I always find a couple gems that I would have missed otherwise.  But it’s always tricky to figure out whether or where they rank, and that’s led to a few…questionable picks in previous years.  Things that I loved on first blush, but now find I don’t have any desire to revisit.

I remember listening to My Dinosaur Life for the very first time last January, and immediately pegging it as a Top Ten album for 2010.  (Top tens were still fresh on my mind, having just finished the previous years’ a week or two prior).  Twelve months, two posts, and a couple hundred 2010 albums later (including a good 20 or so that were contenders for this list), and it still weighs in at #3.  There’s something really special and rare about an album that has both immediate impact and staying power.

Like Circa Survive who dropped in at #4, Motion City Soundtrack were always a band I admired more than loved. And like Blue Sky Noise, My Dinosaur Life is the band’s first release for a major label (Columbia) after putting out their prior few through an indie (Epitaph). But MCS haven’t undergone nearly the sonic overhaul of their brothers in Circa Survive; rather, it’s been more of a honing.  The heavier songs rock harder, faster, sharper; the softer songs are more melodic, more (bitter)sweet.

The instrumentation, while rarely flashy, is shockingly precise, the band turning on a dime like a school of fish.  (A well practiced school of fish, not a quantized school of fish).  Drummer Tony Thaxton’s fills are creative and catchy and endlessly propulsive; they give the album a sort of momentum, not just speed but also weight and heft. Vocalist Justin Pierre sounds better than ever, and while his lyrics are up to their usual high standards, it’s his vocal melodies that really impress.  In terms of the songs themselves, there might not be a high point that quite matches the best of their catalog (“L.G. FUAD”, “The Future Freaks Me Out”) but there are probably ten songs here that come damn close – it’s easily their most consistent work, and there isn’t a single dud track on the album.

And so, a full year after I first heard it, My Dinosaur Life is my #3 album of 2010.  And the best part is knowing that when I look back on this list in five years time, I can be certain this will be a pick I don’t regret.