March 19, 2019 La Dispute – Panorama (Album Review)
Some things are worth waiting for. It has been nearly five years since Michigan-based La Dispute released their last record, but with the release of the band’s fourth LP Panorama on the horizon, there is light at the end of the tunnel for those who eagerly waited to see what kind of magic La Dispute could weave this time. Panorama, set to release Friday, March 22nd, is the band’s first record with Epitaph, and second with legendary producer Will Yip. This new record follows the phenomenal 2014 effort Rooms of the House and sounds like the logical next level from the foundations laid there.
La Dispute has an uncanny talent for defying definition. In doing so, the band has gradually carved out their own sacred space within multiple genres. There are truly no other bands who sound like La Dispute, or who can paint images with words and music in quite the same way. You will not find any catchy hooks or choruses in Panorama, or in any of the band’s catalog.
All that in mind, La Dispute’s power rests within an undefinable combination of vocalist Jordan Dreyer’s essay-like lyrics and the band’s medley of Hardcore, Jazz, Noise, and countless other genres. Something like Spoken Word, something like Hardcore, and something else entirely make up the expanse of Panorama, an aptly titled record chronicling Dreyer’s reflections on a drive across the Midwest and all the tragedies that took place on those roads, coupled with his relationship with his partner.
Whilee Panorama is just that—a macro shot of a Midwestern landscape—it also finds power in its pinpoint focus on particular moments or objects. Where Rooms of the House was Fiction, Panorama is rooted in reality and experience. Still, songs like the explosive “FULTON STREET II” and “VIEW FROM OUR BEDROOM WINDOW” blur the lines between music and literature, with focus shifting between crashing drums, heavy melodic guitars, and Dreyer’s vocals. Occasionally, Dreyer’s vocals become lost and drown among the music, but even that has a particular emotional effect.
While some tracks find their emotion in the raw rhythms and melodies, others shine in their subtleties. “RHODONITE AND GRIEF” and “IN NORTHERN MICHIGAN” draw on Dreyer’s vocal delivery and reflective lyrics, opting for calmer melodies over pure power. Overall, Panorama still draws from Hardcore and Post-Hardcore, but has softer edges than any of the band’s previous releases.
Even so, tracks like “ANXIETY PANORAMA” and “FOOTSTEPS AT THE POND” draw from a well of dazzling intensity, proving that La Dispute can bridge gaps between genres and feelings with ease while demanding your undivided attention throughout.
In that same vein, “YOU ASCENDANT” is deeply reflective and reminiscent of Rooms of the House closer “Objects in Space.” An eerie melody plays behind Dreyer’s narration, slowly building to a desperate crescendo before fading Panorama to a quiet conclusion. Though this track is among the most subdued, it is also its most profound, and possibly Panorama’s standout.
The way Dreyer can conjure up images and emotions with such an atypical vocal delivery is a true testament to his writing. How those lyrics pair so well with the band’s blend of music genre can feel like magic at times, and it is no wonder that La Dispute has amassed such a devout following. Panorama’s reflective tracks can sit neatly alongside the band’s already stellar catalog, and it will no doubt be charming listeners for years to come. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Panorama 5 out of 5 stars.