EP REVIEW: Justin Courtney Pierre – ‘Permanent Midnight’

Artwork for Justin Courtney Pierre’s ‘Permanent Midnight’ - a lightning storm over a landscape of metal platforms tessellated together

It’s rather fitting that Permanent Midnight has come so far after the rest of Justin Courtney Pierre’s recent set of EPs. Apparently it’s still connected to them as the fourth and final release, but having them scattered over the course of last year felt like something of a statement in itself by comparison. They had a bit of his regular work with Motion City Soundtrack to them, but were definitely scaled further back for the most part, in their indie-rock and power-pop impulses. And while none of them were outright bad, there was definitely a limit to what they could achieve overall.

Permanent Midnight, on the other hand, feels markedly different. As much as it can still exist within the space of its contemporaries as a vehicle for Pierre’s more insular meditations, the year-long gestation period is one that’s paid off consistently. It goes without saying that this is the best of the four, simply through how much more tightly everything comes together, and much more relatively unburdened Pierre feels here. The shades of Motion City Soundtrack haven’t been removed but have more done with them. There’s a jauntier, ramshackle nature to Back At 45 in guitar and banjo and punctuating ad-libs from Pierre’s daughter; meanwhile, there’s the wistful swell of Jimmy Eat World affixed to the emo-pop anthems So Beautiful And Difficult and House Of Strangers.

There’s that bit more freshness to what’s going on here, particularly in how tracks feel allowed to exhale out into more available space. Just take the opener Used To Be Old School, in how it’s almost pulling from dream-pop in its luxuriant pace and glimmering production, and how much more effective a crescendo that produces. Directionally, Permanent Midnight has keenness to do its own thing and move at its own pace, and that works out great overall. It’s something that Pierre as a vocalist can still adapt to, with a tone that’s already well-equipped for emotionality and vulnerability. Much more so than anything before, it all pieces together in satisfying way, and with its own ideas to rest on and build into its own thing.

Ultimately, it’s an approach that definitely works for Pierre in where he is, both as a musician and as a person. The more contemplative air fits where most of this content goes in Pierre’s quiet examinations of ageing and family life, particularly on You’re The Reason and all its little details most reminiscent of how inspired his writing can be. Add that on to the homespun field of view of it all (it’s why his family’s inclusion on Back At 45 is so appreciated, aside from just being ridiculously charming), and it yields easily his most complete package on one of these EPs. The December release date almost feels even more appropriate in a sense, winding down with the rest of the year and nestling into its more comfortable, cosy air.

It’s just nice to see Pierre in a place like that, and producing great music from it as a result. Yes, of all his recent EPs, Permanent Midnight is really the only one that can be called great without hesitation, thanks to an individuality that shines through, and a knack for putting some excellent songwriting into its most workable context. Even if there’s not really been a traceable arc among these releases, the fact that Permanent Midnight has an air of finality is still fitting; in a way, it’s wrapping up this era of Pierre’s musical journey on a high, and that’s just terrific to see.

For fans of: Jimmy Eat World, Something Corporate, The Early November

‘Permanent Midnight’ by Justin Courtney Pierre is released on 9th December on Epitaph Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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