I feel I must start this review with a professional disclaimer of sorts. I am a fan and friend of Marina City. Normally, I would disqualify myself from reviewing an album of someone I know personally. However, for this EP, I felt it was very important to have the perspective of someone who has witnessed the growth of this band, from a small regional act hailing from Chicago, to Ernie Ball Battle of The Bands Grand Prize Winner, to their current music growth.
As much as I have liked MC’s music over the last couple years, I’ve always felt like they were a 7/10 band that was on the cusp of transitioning from a good band to a great band. They were a talented band with one of the best singers in the genre, but outside of a couple songs, namely “I’ll Sing You to Sleep” from the Chimera EP, they lacked the ability to simplify songs and write a significant and memorable chorus.
With Terminal, Marina City manage to get out of their own way with five well-crafted and well-produced songs, highlighted by the album closing anthem, “Dreamers Never Die” and powerful ballad “Better Weather”, which features the most memorable chorus the Chicago sextuplet (vocalist Ryan Argast, guitarist/vocalist Brian Johnson, keyboardist/vocalist Matt Gaudiano, drummer Eric Somers, bassist Aaron Heiy, and lead guitarist Todor Birindjiev) has ever written, and begs comparison to Bradley Walden-era Emarosa.
What really impresses me about this release is that they manage to improve their pop sensibility without abandoning the soul and passion that made them stand out in the first place. Front man Ryan Argast is at his best, showing extreme versatility and breathtaking emotional tones. Whether it is the driving, self-reflective “Man In the Mirror”, the Set It Off-esque “Royalty”, or the soulful alt-rock “Thieves”, which instantly brings back vibes of early Maroon 5, Argast perfectly fits the character and tone of his voice to match the emotional value of each song.
The only downside of Dreamers Never Die is honestly its length. While Marina City has had a busy release schedule over the last few years, it has mostly been re-recordings and acoustic versions of previously released songs paired with a few new tracks. Hearing a proper release of brand new songs, as well as the progression that the band has made, leaves me wanting a bit more.
Fan or not, friend or not, the truth is that Marina City has capitalized on their growing popularity and resources with an absolute masterpiece that fills a major void in the alternative rock genre. Dreamers Never Die shows the band are capable of crossover growth and Top 40 choruses without abandoning the style, flair and soul that make them stand out. The EP is just as good, if not better, after twenty listens as it was on my first. I look forward to what the future brings for these gentlemen, and the growth we’ll see from their next release after a year spent touring on these tracks.
An absolute alt-rock masterpiece that only finds fault in it's length.