Motion City Soundtrack have been around for the better part of a decade. Touring relentlessly, they've been able to build both a loyal fanbase and enough mainstream buzz to think they're backed by a major. Even If It Kills Me is an excellent release, the band's next logical musical step after their previous two albums, albeit one that will take some time for die-hard MCS fans to get acclimated to.
First and foremost: Even If It Kills Me is a pop record. There are no two ways about this. MCS has taken nearly all the things that they do well and adapted it into a group of songs that could, and should double as every teenage kid's personal soundtrack. This is also where the die-hard fans might be taken aback. Folks who are hoping for another I Am the Movie will be very disappointed, as this is miles from that. Right away one will notice the gloss and production on the album, as there isn't even a hint of the edgy, raw sounds that so many liked about I Am the Movie. On the other hand, this album has some of the band's best and catchiest hooks, as there are quite a few tracks that could be destined for Top 40 stardom. The entire album is radio-friendly, alternating between mega-catchy and ballad-type songs. Its nearly impossible to listen to a couple songs and not be humming them for the rest of the day.
Justin Pierre's lyrics are typically heartfelt odes to his past and Even If It Kills Me is not any different. Perhaps a little less direct than Commit This to Memory's, the songs are littered with nostalgic references and metaphors that work extremely well in context. There are still some parts with weak lyrics, but it's hardly as frequent than Commit This to Memory. Overall, the lyrics and vocals are strong, actually a lot closer to I Am the Movie than their last effort. The use of keyboards is much better than Commit This to Memory, as well.
There are some negatives with Even If It Kills Me, but they are limited. First, it features probably MCS's worst song of their three albums: "The Conversation." The basic piano ballad just doesn't work, plain and simple. At the very least, it's the only song that even achieves 'meh' status. One other point of contention though is that the little nuances that MCS is known for, like the four-part harmony in 'Better Open the Door" or the outstanding drum parts in "Time Turned Fragile" don't seem to make any kind of appearance on Even If It Kills Me. This could be a necessary evil in the step the band took toward radio-friendliness, being that those nuances are part of what made them unique in the first place.
In closing, this is a more complete offering than their sophomore effort in almost every way. MCS has matured in their own way, and they should be commended for that. These guys write very good music, and Even If It Kills Me is no exception. It is an outstanding pop record, one worth checking out even for the types that hate the genre. Motion City Soundtrack fans will enjoy this as well, even if it takes a couple listens. The better albums always do.