I, like most people, have pretty strong emotional ties to the music I listened to during my formative years. In music, I found a way to navigate the new, complex emotions I was experiencing as I transitioned from adolescence into young adulthood. At the time, those artists provided me with a creative outlet that I desperately needed. But when I revisit those songs now, I find many of them to be immature and disconnected from my current experience. Every once in a while, I’ll try listening to new music from the musicians I loved back then, and it just isn’t the same. And so most of those artists have faded into the background and fallen off of my musical radar.
But then there’s Secret Secret Dino Club.
I’m not sure if it was serendipitous timing, the fact that I really connect with the personality and outlook of Jayce (the musician behind the project), or if the songs were just /that/ catchy, but for whatever reason, I have been a relentlessly loyal fan of Secret Secret Dino Club since the second I first heard his music. And my love has only grown stronger over the years as I’ve followed Jayce throughout his various endeavors and even had the opportunity to interact with him a few times online. To call myself a Dino Club super-fan would be an understatement. That’s why I was so excited to listen to his new five-track EP “I Don’t Wanna Be Famous” when it came out last week, and I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint in the least.
The new EP comes after a lengthy hiatus for Secret Secret Dino Club. The project’s last studio album (“Look Cat Meow,” recently re-released as “Songs from My Myspace”) came out in 2011. Since then, Jayce has mostly focused on other projects, especially the rap/pop band Astro Safari USA that he started with his best friend JP. Though he did release an EP entitled “Like Lebron Has His Ball” under the Dino Club name last year on SoundCloud, this album serves as Jayce’s mainstream return to the project and to the musical style that defines Secret Secret Dino Club.
If I had to sum up the new album in a word, it would be “growth.” Although the style of the songs will certainly sound familiar to anyone who’s listened to Dino Club before, the lyrics most likely won’t be. They’re as fun, catchy, and witty as ever, but there’s a maturity to the content that’s new to Jayce’s work. And I find that maturity refreshing.
It’s clear from the first few moments of the album that something is different. The title track (“Famous”) begins with the lines, “I don’t want to be famous. // Famous people break up // and get hooked on drugs.” My immediate reaction to these lyrics was, “Why would Jayce care about breaking up with someone?” Dino Club doesn’t sing about maintaining romantic relationships. Dino Club sings about taking girlfriend applications and telling overbearing women to stop calling. And yet the entire song is about Jayce’s desire to avoid pursuing fame and focus instead on being real and finding love. The result is a critique of fame culture that is both entertaining and convicting at the same time. The song ends with a staple of Dino Club music: The instruments cut out just before Jayce delivers the final note, leaving only his voice. It makes for an effective conclusion to the album’s opening track.
“The Best Song I Ever Heard in My Entire Life” follows “Famous” with even more explicit references to Dino Club’s newfound focus on his relationship. The song is self-aware, critiquing itself as it progresses and recognizing itself as the best song the singer has ever heard, not necessarily because of its quality, but because of its subject. My favorite thing about this song is the layering of voices on the chorus. Jayce has a voice that is perfectly fit to be harmonize with itself, and when he uses this technique, it creates a very unique and appealing effect that I’ve always enjoyed.
The EP continues with “Art” set at the center of the track list. As a long-time follower of Secret Secret Dino Club, I am acutely aware of Jayce’s complicated relationship with the concept of art. The term is difficult to define, and it’s often used to communicate either sophistication or exemption from critique, but neither of these is satisfying. In this song, the singer finally offers his conclusive definition of art, and it’s simply the person he loves. The chorus goes so far as to say, “You’re a piece of art.” I have shared in Jayce’s frustration over the use of the term “art” over the years, and it is so cathartic to see that, at least for him, there is a meaningful answer to question of what art is.
“Easy” is by far my favorite song on the EP. This song is Dino Club at his most vulnerable. Each verse reveals the artist’s insecurities in the context of romantic relationships, and the chorus serves as both a confession that the singer is responsible for making it “not easy” to love him and an appreciation for his partner’s patience in doing so anyway. In this track, Jayce is recognizing his own shortcomings and the fact that he is loved despite them. That is a level of depth never before seen in a Dino Club song, and it really connected with me.
The album ends with “Trumpets Sing.” This is a fun little song that seems to be about Jayce’s experience meeting his girlfriend and trying to woo her. The alternative title is “Intro,” which is ironic since it is the final track on the EP and probably refers to the fact that the song deals with the beginning of a relationship that clearly means a great deal to the singer.
This new album from Secret Secret Dino Club offers the catchy, upbeat melodies and the witty lyrics that have always defined the project and drawn in fans, but it also offers something more. It incorporates a more mature, fulfilled approach to the world that reflects a significant shift in the artist’s outlook. Jayce has fallen in love, come to terms with his own imperfections, and experienced the growth that inevitably comes from truly loving someone and being loved by them, and he’s shared that growth with his listeners through this EP. The result is an incredibly satisfying and relatable release from a musician I’ve had the honor of following as I’ve undergone my own process of developing and maturing. It feels like I got to grow up with an artist I truly admire, and I can’t think of anything better Jayce could have offered his fans with his latest release.