May 2017 Alt Col Picks

A lot of great records were released in May, so here are our favorite albums of the month! (In no particular order.) Want a Spotify playlist? Click here!

  • Paramore – After Laughter

Irresistible melodies, smooth guitar riffs, and heartfelt lyrics define Paramore’s fifth studio album titled After Laughter. The band leans into a colorful new sound gilded by the ’80s and pop sensibility, continuing to push the envelope of their musical range and variation. Standout tracks include “Fake Happy,” “Hard Times,” and “Rose-Colored Boy.” After Laughter will appeal to fans of Walk the Moon, HAIM, and Bleachers.

  • Harry Styles – Harry Styles

I never thought I would be writing about Harry Styles on an alternative music website but here we are. Styles delivers his debut solo album with grandiosity and charm. From thunderous, rocking choruses to calm, sincere acoustic serenades, Styles proves he’s more than just a typical (former) boy band member. Standout tracks include “Kiwi,” “Only Angel,” “Sign of the Times,” and “Two Ghosts.” Harry Styles is sure to attract followers of, um, ZZ Top, Niall Horan, and Aerosmith, I guess.

  • Vinyl Theatre – Origami

Pop rockers Vinyl Theatre offer up some of their heaviest material to date and also some of their catchiest. These compelling tunes are bound to get stuck rattling in your head between their buoyant guitar riffs and clamorous percussion. Standout tracks include “My Fault,” “30 Seconds,” and “The Island.” Origami will capture listeners of MisterWives, The Griswolds, and Finish Ticket.

  • Perfume Genius – No Shape

The soft art-pop of No Shape is haunting, beautiful, and mesmerizing. Mike Hadreas’s eerie falsetto and raw synth accompaniment coagulate for an expressive, stirring record destined to be unforgettable and hallucinatory with every listen. Standout tracks include “Slip Away,” “Wreath,” and “Just Like Love.” No Shape is sure to interest fans of Future Islands, Angel Olsen, and Porches.

  • MisterWives – Connect the Dots

Memorable hooks and enticing instrumentation characterize MisterWives’ sophomore record Connect the Dots. Extraordinary melodies and vocal performances make this indie pop rock album undeniably fun and impressive. Standout tracks include “Machine,” “Drummer Boy,” “Coloring Outside the Lines,” and “Oh Love.” Connect the Dots will appeal to followers of Vinyl Theatre, COIN, and The Griswolds.

  • Gideon – Cold

Hailing from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Gideon releases their fourth studio album and first full-length with Equal Vision Records titled Cold. Brimming with aggression, bite, and pugnacity, Cold is fiery and chilling all at once. Standout tracks include “Champions,” “Cursed,” “Machines,” and “Pulling Teeth.” Cold is sure to satisfy followers of Fit for a King, Colossus, and For All Eternity.

  • Dreamcar – Dreamcar

Dreamcar is a new wave alt-rock supergroup comprised of members from No Doubt and AFI, but their debut release together is not reminiscent of either of those acts. Dreamcar is dreamy, spellbinding, and crisp, sure to put you in a hypnotic trance with each spin. Standout tracks include “Kill for Candy,” “Born to Lie,” and “All of the Dead Girls.” Dreamcar is bound to attract listeners of Knox Hamilton, No Doubt, and The Kin.

  • Magic Giant – In the Wind

Indie rockers Magic Giant unleash their debut long-player detailed by folky alt-pop inflections and catchy, anthemic choruses. In the Wind is colorful, vibrant, and lively, each song bringing a new spectacular attitude to the table. Standout tracks include “Set On Fire,” “Window,” and “Celebrate the Reckless.” In the Wind will capture fans of The Mowglis, Grouplove, and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.

  • Free Throw – Bear Your Mind

Invigorating pop punk and poignant lyricism elucidate Free Throw’s sophomore album titled Bear Your Mind. Between impassioned vocals and alluring guitar melodies, Bear Your Mind is certainly a record you will gladly bear in mind with every play. Standout tracks include “Randy, I Am the Liquor,” “Better Have Burn Heal,” and “Weight On My Chest.” Bear Your Mind will capture fans of Neck Deep, The Wonder Years, and The Story So Far.

  • Grayscale – Adornment

Grayscale’s sophomore full-length Adornment testifies to the band’s engaging songwriting and stellar musicianship. With animated choruses and tireless libretto, Adornment doesn’t need to be adorned with enhancements—it’s already amazing. Standout tracks include “Atlantic,” “Come Undone (ft. Patty Walters),” and “Beautiful Things.” Adornment will capture fans of As It Is, Moose Blood, and Like Pacific.


Honorable Mentions & eps
  • Spencer Radcliffe & Everyone Else – Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Mellow indie alternative bliss. Standout tracks include “Smoker’s Paradise,” “Static Electricity,” and “Wrong Turn.” For fans of Yellow Ostrich, Varsity, and Rayland Baxter.

  • A Lot Like Birds – Divisi

Piercing rock with infectious riffs. Standout tracks include “The Sound of Us,” “Trace the Lines,” and “Infinite Chances.” For fans of Emarosa, Slaves, and Hail the Sun.

  • Gold Route – Prosper

Upbeat yet ardent pop punk. Standout tracks include “Void,” “Build,” and “Ropes.” For fans of Detour North, Talk to You Never, and Seaway.

  • Chasing Velvet – Wings (EP)

Smooth, captivating pop rock. Standout tracks include “The Clouds” and “Vertigo,” but the entire EP is wonderful! For fans of 5 Seconds of Summer, Royal Teeth, and Hollywood Heartache.

  • Seasonal – Bloom (EP)

Energetic pop punk with an indie tinge. Standout tracks include “Certainty,” “These Games,” and “Ranger,” but the whole EP is great! For fans of Moose Blood, Seaway, and Turnover.

  • Wavves – You’re Welcome

Enthusiastic indie rock. Standout tracks include “Million Enemies,” “Daisy,” and “Dreams of Grandeur.” For fans of FIDLAR, Cloud Nothings, and SWMRS.

  • At the Drive-In – in•ter a•li•a

Gravelly rock with overflowing angst. Standout tracks include “Governed by Contagions,” “Pendulum in a Peasant Dress,” and “Hostage Stamps.” For fans of Billy Talent, The Mars Volta, and Sparta.

  • Girlpool – Powerplant

Velvety, expressive indie rock. Standout tracks include “123,” “It Gets More Blue,” and “Powerplant.” For fans of Palehound, Car Seat Headrest, and Pinegrove.

  • flor – come out. you’re hiding

Exhilarating indie alt-pop. Standout tracks include “overbehind,” “hold on,” and “guarded.” For fans of LANY, Paradise Fears, and Against the Current.

  • Waters – Something More!

Fun, sprightly indie rock. Standout tracks include “Hiccups,” “You Don’t Know What You Want,” and “Molly Is a Babe.” For fans of Grouplove, Bleachers, and Cold War Kids.

  • Fire From the Gods – Narrative Retold

Ragged rock with a spirited bite. Standout tracks include “The Voiceless,” “The Taste,” and “End Trasmission.” For fans of Of Mice & Men, Wovenwar, and Beartooth.

  • The Mountain Goats – Goths

Transcendental indie alternative vibes. Standout tracks include “Rain in Soho,” “We Do It Different on the West Coast,” and “Stench of the Unburied.” For fans of Tame Impala, Lady Lamb, and alt-J.


Let us know what you think of May’s releases down in the comments below!

April 2017 Alt Col Picks

A bunch of great albums appeared in April, so here are our favorite releases of the month! (In no particular order.) Want a Spotify playlist? Click here!

  • The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely

Catchy hooks, slick guitar melodies, and impassioned lyrics characterize The Maine’s sixth studio album, Lovely Little Lonely. The band offers up some of their best material to date and tiptoes outside of their comfort zone on multiple tunes. Standout tracks include “Bad Behavior,” “Black Butterflies & Déjà Vu,” and “Do You Remember? (The Other Half of 23).” Lovely Little Lonely will appeal to fans of Anarbor, This Century, and Beach Weather.

  • New Found Glory – Makes Me Sick

The monumental pop rock band New Found Glory have returned for their ninth long-player entitled Makes Me Sick, conjuring their trademark style and introducing some new electronic elements in the mix to keep things fresh and modern. Standout tracks include “Happy Being Miserable,” “The Sound of Two Voices,” and “Party on Apocalypse.” Makes Me Sick is sure to attract followers of Bayside, Taking Back Sunday, and Good Charlotte.

  • Have Mercy – Make the Best of It

Emo rockers Have Mercy solidify their place in the scene with their latest record titled Make the Best of It. The ardent libretto and fierce musicality prove they truly are making the best of their ability and skill. Standout tracks include “Coexist,” “Good Christian Man,” and “Begging for Bones.” Make the Best of It will capture listeners of The Wonder Years, Sorority Noise, and Boston Manor.

  • Super American – Disposable

Super American’s debut outing is anything but disposable. These rough-around-the-edges tunes are bound to stick in your head like bubblegum, though not as sweet. There is a bite and underlying angst, seeping through every verse littered with sharp wordplay and deft hooks. Standout tracks include “Sloppy Jazz,” “Dearly Beloved,” and “Congratulations.” Disposable is sure to interest fans of The Front Bottoms, Joyce Manor, and Modern Baseball.

  • Hawking – Diverge

Atmospheric alt-rock has never sounded better. Hawking blends a piercing edge with smooth melodies to create tremendous, memorable choruses and vehement tunes on their debut full-length titled Diverge. Standout tracks include “Broken Glass,” “Comfortable,” “Lying Through Your Teeth,” and “Haunted House.” Diverge will appeal to followers of (possibly) Starset, Red, and Fame on Fire.

  • The Flatliners – Inviting Light

The Flatliners’ latest project Inviting Light doesn’t just invite you to listen; it demands your attention and begs you to feel. Captivating guitar refrains, accomplished vocals, and avid lyricism distinguish this unforgettable record. Standout tracks include “Indoors,” “Hang My Head,” and “Human Party Trick.” Inviting Light is sure to satisfy followers of The Menzingers, The Gaslight Anthem, and Teenage Bottlerocket.

  • The Weeks – Easy

The Weeks make a splash with their bluesy indie rock long-player titled Easy. The effortless musicianship and songwriting ability exhibited on this album creates the image that this level of greatness is simply just easy for The Weeks to achieve. Standout tracks include “Talk Like That,” “Bottle Rocket,” and “Hands on the Radio.” Easy is bound to attract listeners of Alabama Shakes, Lake Street Dive, and Moon Taxi.

  • Cold War Kids – LA Divine

Glossy yet jagged, LA Divine displays the real caliber of the outstanding alt-rockers Cold War Kids. Their sixth studio release is outlined by remarkable choruses, anthemic chants, lustrous instrumentation, and sleek lyrics you can’t get out of your head. Standout tracks include “Love Is Mystical,” “So Tied Up (ft. Bishop Briggs),” and “No Reason to Run.” LA Divine will capture fans of Cage the Elephant, Grouplove, and Young the Giant.


Honorable Mentions
  • Andrew Combs – Canyons of My Mind

Mellow singer/songwriter bliss. Standout tracks include “Rose Colored Blues,” “Blood Hunters,” and “Bourgeois King.” For fans of Little Chief, Jason Isbell, and Simon & Garfunkel.

  • While She Sleeps – You Are We

Piercing rock with infectious riffs. Standout tracks include “Silence Speaks (ft. Oli Sykes),” “Hurricane,” and “Feel.” For fans of Beartooth, Memphis May Fire, and The Devil Wears Prada.

  • Overcoats – Young

Mesmerizing indie alt-pop. Standout tracks include “Leave the Light On,” “Hold Me Close,” and “Nighttime Hunger.” For fans of Lorde, Oh Wonder, and Broods.

  • Those Who Knew – New Perspective (EP)

Enthusiastic pop rock with shrewd melodies. Standout tracks include “Losing Touch” and “Seventeen,” but the whole EP is great! For fans of Face Value, Sleep On It, and Far Too Young.

  • Falling In Reverse – Coming Home

Gravelly rock with overflowing angst. Standout tracks include “Coming Home,” “Loser,” and “F**k You and All Your Friends.” For fans of A Day to Remember, Issues, and Starset.

  • Future Islands – The Far Field

Velvety, expressive indie rock. Standout tracks include “Ran,” “Beauty of the Road,” and “North Star.” For fans of Arcade Fire, Perfume Genius, and Warpaint.

  • Incubus – 8

Exhilarating rock with some odd genres sprinkled along. Standout tracks include “Undefeated,” “Nimble Bastard,” and “State of the Art.” For fans of Bush, Smashing Pumpkins, and You Me At Six.

  • Diet Cig – Swear I’m Good At This

Ragged indie rock with a punk tinge. Standout tracks include “Tummy Ache,” “Sixteen,” and “Barf Day.” For fans of Girlpool, PWR BTTM, and Alumine.


Let us know what you think of April’s releases down in the comments below!

Ed Sheeran – ÷ (Divide) 2017 (Album Review)

Ed Sheeran, the musical dynamo who stands as the mainstream poster child for the singer/songwriter “white guy with an acoustic guitar” genre, has released his third major label full-length album, ÷. Ed is acclaimed for his diversified styles, from upbeat hip-hop to syrupy sweet love ballads to campfire singalongs. His earnest lyricism and authentic intimacy is one of the many reasons to love this amiable redhead.

So what does this latest long-player have to offer?

÷ is a typical Ed Sheeran album, a mixture of those various approaches and then some. But unfortunately, ÷ plays it extremely safe, although he does tiptoe outside of his comfort zone on a few moments. This is his most noticeably commercial record to date, which thus sacrifices risk-taking and is ultimately underwhelming. After 2014’s phenomenal ×, touring the planet, and taking a year off social media, we set the bar high for Ed. We expected something more personal, something introspective and astonishing, but ÷ really does not meet those standards. It’s the same-old-same-old but yet not as stunning and gripping as his earlier material. Of course, ÷ is good; it’s not a terrible release by any means, but it certainly is disappointing in multiple categories.

First, the lyrics. At times, the libretto of this work can be profound and ardent, but most cuts either display the same tired-out romantic clichés from his prior albums or empty, dull subjects that simply don’t attest to his growth as a person since the last time we heard from him on ×. “Galway Girl” exhibits a night out at the pub, kissing an Irish girl and eating Doritos, and while this is down-to-earth and practical, is this really the height of Ed’s songwriting? Or “New Man” where Ed gives details of a stereotypical gym jock, someone we could easily picture and possibly put a name to of a similar person we know, and while this song is descriptive, is it really anything more than just scratching the surface? Or similarly, “Shape of You,” the most sexually charged yet undoubtedly catchiest song in the lineup. Or on tracks like “Happier” where Ed expresses some maturity by accepting an ex lover has moved on with someone new, but yet he ruins it all by stating at the end of the song he’ll still “be waiting here for [them].” We do manage to see some progression and communion on pieces like “Castle on the Hill” which describes Ed’s childhood and struggles of growing up and apart from old friends. The bonus track “Save Myself” is probably the most intimate, reflective tune on the album, which begs the question as to why it was merely tacked on as a bonus track. “Supermarket Flowers” is also one of the most personal and genuine songs where Ed recounts true events that occurred in his life.

EDIT: Ed Sheeran said in an interview with Zane Lowe that the reason why “Save Myself” was not included as an a-side tune was because the album had “too many slow songs.” Thus, the label requested that he swap “New Man” and “Save Myself” in the initial listing, making “New Man” a standard track and “Save Myself” a bonus track. This is understandable, and one must also consider that alongside the poignant ballads, Ed is known for his hip-hop-directed cuts, which ÷ lacked in some ways. Ed also mentioned that due to the rise of online music streaming services, bonus tracks still garner their deserved attention to an extent.

The musical assortment of this release is apparent when solely discussing the album, but compared to Ed’s past catalog, it is for the most part tale and trite. Hip-hop cuts like “New Man” and “Eraser” offer Ed’s clunky rap sequences and poor production quality. Sappy amorous ballads like “Perfect” and “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” feel disingenuous and unrealistic. (Of course, this is assuredly subjective; some fans adore his hip-hop moments and/or his mushy romantic articles, but I personally have never found them interesting.) The overt love serenades, swelling with passion, virtually come across as just an attempt to pull at your heartstrings, which seems exploitative to an extent. (And trying to mimic the success of “Thinking Out Loud.”) The only tolerable romantic nocturne is “How Would You Feel (Paean),” which is embellished by the delectable piano accompaniment.

EDIT: Ed Sheeran said in an interview with Zane Lowe that his main motivation for writing “Perfect” was to prove that he could write fabulous love songs on his own and outdo “Thinking Out Loud,” which he wrote with Amy Wadge. This bolsters my feelings of insincerity in Ed’s latest songwriting.

However, pieces like “Castle on the Hill” and “Galway Girl” do illustrate some sonic variation not typically discovered on his previous albums. (With the exception of the stellar “English Rose” from ×, which is quite overlooked if you ask me.) “Castle on the Hill” follows in the bombastic vein of a Mumford & Sons-esque stadium epic, something new for Ed. “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan” find Ed exploring his near Celtic background and fondness for Ireland with an Irish band, something that truly stands out on this full-length. Bonus tracks like “Barcelona” and “Bibia Be Ye Ye” show him placing a toe outside his comfort zone with a more Latin leaning vibe, and he even roughly speaks Spanish on the former! Again, it’s a shame these tunes were attached as bonus material because it is the only minor evidence and incorporation of Ed’s travels across the globe. The impassioned love divertissements do offer some symphonic diversity with their orchestral inflections and female backing vocals, like on the soulful “Dive,” and Ed is cementing a somewhat unique sound with these timbres.

The easy accessibility and listenability of ÷ causes it to suffer in some ways. Ed’s pop sensibility seemingly dumbs down his trademark emotional contemplation and self-examination to appeal to a larger audience. The lyrics of this album plainly don’t punch the listener in the gut like his preceding projects did. He immolates auricular risk-taking over his traditional familiarity and generic acoustic timbre which has grown threadbare throughout his career. ÷ is not entirely atrocious or abominable by any degree, but it does not scrape the expectations we had set for him after his antecedent release, hiatus, and worldwide excursions. ÷ warrants a solid 6/10 for its lack of progression and variety, and I’ll personally only be revisiting a small handful of songs. (As opposed to my constant return to his full previous records!)

What are your thoughts on ÷? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Best songs: “Castle on the Hill,” “Save Myself,” “Dive,” “Supermarket Flowers,” “How Would You Feel (Paean)”
  • Worst songs: “Happier,” “New Man,” “Galway Girl,” “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here”

December 2016 Alt Col Picks

decpicks

Not many releases appeared in December to wrap up this year, but here are our favorite albums of the month! (In no particular order.)

  • Enemies – Valuables

Enemies ends their career on a high note with the beautiful, mesmerizing Valuables. This album is the first in their discography to feature vocals, and they execute the new addition expertly well. The smooth guitar work and daydreamy percussion is truly something to be treasured. Standout tracks include “It’sallwaves,” “For Karla,” and “Leaves.” Valuables is sure to interest fans of From Indian Lakes and Glass Towers.

  • A Loss For Words – Crises

A Loss For Words also ends their career on a high note with the hard-hitting, emotional Crises. The detailed and poignant songwriting coupled with the masterful musicianship leaves a slow burn as the band says goodbye. Standout tracks include “Existential Crisis at the Cask ‘n Flagon,” “I Feel an Army In My Fist (ft. Andrew Neufeld),” and “SoCal (ft. Ryan Scott Graham).” Crises will attract listeners of Like Pacific, Hit the Lights, and Transit.

  • Nat & Alex Wolff – Public Places

With five years separating Public Places and its predecessor Black Sheep, Nat & Alex Wolff have been dearly missed. After gaining popularity with The Naked Brothers Band, the Wolff brothers embarked on a personal project to pursue their own musical interests and display their stellar abilities. Public Places is sprinkled with piano melodies, wistful guitars, and crisp drumming. Standout tracks include “Passing Through,” “Public Places,” and “Rollin’ Around.”

  • Now I See – The Bad Chapter

Now I See’s debut long-player The Bad Chapter is far from what the title suggests. The Bad Chapter is an ardent showcase of Now I See’s substantial musicality and considerable songcrafting. Standout tracks include “The Bad Chapter,” “Dead Point (ft. Trevor Wentworth),” and “Jurassic Park.” The Bad Chapter will appeal to followers of Bring Me the Horizon, Issues, and coldrain.

  • Runaway Symphony – American Blood

American Blood by Runaway Symphony melds alt-rock and acoustic folk into one savory concoction of vociferous percussion, piquant lyricism, and delectable guitar work. It is mature, captivating, and wholesome from start to finish. Standout tracks include “The Fall of Man,” “A Robe Upon a Ghost,” and “American Blood.” American Blood is sure to capture fans of The Oh Hellos, Little Chief, and Run River North.

  • Vaults – Caught In Still Life

After releasing numerous EPs and singles, Vaults unleashes the well-rounded and excellent album, Caught In Still Life. The three-piece welds atmospheric synth pop with pure, refined vocals to create a gorgeous listen that is beyond pleasing to the ears and the heart. Standout tracks include “One Last Night,” “Hurricane,” and “One Day I’ll Fly Away.” Caught In Still Life will interest listeners of Florence + the Machine, Broods, and Lana Del Rey.

  • Rebel Kind – Just For Fools

Rebel Kind also makes a fabulous debut with Just For Fools, a lo-fi collection of songs that tend to just barely scrape the two-minute mark. The sentimental guitar melodies and energetic libretto mingles together to produce an exquisite masterpiece that truly grows on you. Standout tracks include “Kiss You,” “At the Party,” and “Everything You Said Was Just a Lie.” Just For Fools is bound to attract fans of Best Coast, Car Seat Headrest, and Varsity.

  • The Middle Ground – Start Again (EP)

middlegroundThe smooth alt-rock combined with raspy warbling characterizes the new EP Start Again from Nashville’s The Middle Ground. Enticing guitar refrains and danceable drum inflections establish The Middle Ground’s musical abilities and songwriting skills. Standout tracks include “Good Love” and “Lake Michigan,” but really, the whole release is delightful! Start Again will appeal to fans of Catfish and the Bottlemen, Finish Ticket, and A Silent Film.


Honorable Mentions
  • The Narrative – Golden Silence

Standout tracks include “Chasing a Feeling,” “California Sun,” “I Can Make a Mess,” and “Oklahoma Air.” For fans of City Harbor, Night Terrors of 1927, and Sun Culture.

  • Faint Silhouette – Living Portraits (EP)

Standout tracks include “Forever Abandoned,” “The Struggle,” and “Mental.” For fans of Bullet For My Valentine, Black Box Warning, and Beartooth.


Let us know what you think of December’s releases down in the comments below!

Panic! at the Disco – Death of a Bachelor 2016 (Album Review)

Man, this review has been a long time coming. Panic! at the Disco’s 2016 album Death of a Bachelor will be one year old next month, so we thought we might as well get around to reviewing it before then. Panic! at the Disco has been dwindled down to solely frontman Brendon Urie, a Las Vegas native who draws influences from his city and musical legends, such as Queen and Frank Sinatra. Panic! has taken on many different personas throughout the past decade-long career, shifting styles with every new album release from pop rock to The Beatles-inspired folk pop to Vaudeville to electronica. Panic! has done it all, but now with Urie remaining as the only true member, how does Death of a Bachelor shape up?

Well, Death of a Bachelor is like a bit of everything, which sounds great but not really. Every song sounds different, which I can commend Urie for incorporating variety, but it doesn’t make for an easy listen when the style is constantly transitioning. Death of a Bachelor is more of a collection of songs, and the songs are mostly decent on their own, but it’s not a cohesive, flowing record by any means. Overall, the full-length is plainly disheveled and does not age well over time. Honestly, the more I listen to this album, the more I never want to play it again.

Panic! has never had a distinct style, so for Death of a Bachelor to sound different than all their past projects is not a surprise. But the problem is that Panic!’s previous long-players have all had a distinct style of their own, whereas Death of a Bachelor is a messy amalgam of so many contrasting types. There isn’t one clear-cut genre I can label this album with. It’s not that I’m “afraid of difference and nonconformity” or “afraid of integrating various musical fashions;” it’s more that this album is a headache to listen through due to its incoherence and discord.

Look, like I said, the songs are generally pretty alright on their own, and ideally, Urie should’ve taken one or two similar sounding songs and expanded upon their particular style to create the album instead of mingling vastly differing musical categories. Nonetheless, even most of the songs on Death of a Bachelor have problems of their own. (Not to mention the terrible marketing behind issuing the full-length. Seriously, 6 out of 11 songs were pre-released in some way, meaning only 5 songs were actually delivered on the release date.)

Of course, there’s also a lot of other problems with Death of a Bachelor, (and some good things,) so let’s just take this track by track. The album opens with “Victorious,” an upbeat, entertaining party song. The production of this piece, (and most of the album,) is done extremely well, except the guitars seem very muted. Panic! always featured stellar guitar work, but since 2013’s album Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, which leaned heavily on electronic elements, the guitars have become more and more in the background with every new publication. “Victorious” is simply a feel-good party anthem, and there isn’t much to dig into in terms of lyrical content. The vocal melodies on this song are, well, annoying? Urie has always been one of the better singers in the pop rock/emo alternative scene, and now as the only remaining member of Panic!, he seems to feel inclined to show off his operatic talent even more. However, when he aims to hit pitches in the upper register, it just kinda… hurts to listen to. I will applaud him for his skill, and also his musical abilities considering he supposedly accomplished all the instrumental efforts on this album himself, but sometimes the vocal refrains can be nerve-wracking and aggravating over time.

The next tune “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” is another party canticle, but more toned down musically in terms of flair and glamour. Again, there isn’t much to comment on with such straightforward libretto, but sorry, I am gonna rip to shreds the “Rock Lobster” sampling. You know, it seems as if Brendon has been following a little too closely in the footsteps of his musical father-figure Fall Out Boy since 2013 when the Chicago band returned from their hiatus. Well, he’s always been under their wing since signing on to Pete Wentz’s record label in 2004, but now in recent years, the affinity and relative imitation has been more prevalent than ever. Brendon turned to the same producer of Fall Out Boy’s 2013 Save Rock and Roll to operate on Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, resulting in strikingly identical sounding records, and now “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” incorporates the famous guitar riff from The B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” similar to Fall Out Boy’s implementation of The Munsters’ theme song in their hit “Uma Thurman.” Brendon also employed Jake Sinclair to help produce Death of a Bachelor, which unsurprisingly produced Fall Out Boy’s 2015 album, American Beauty/American Psycho. He also joined on board with Crush Management, the team behind Fall Out Boy. Come on, Brendon, you could at least be a bit more original…?

Anyway, the third piece on the album is “Hallelujah,” which was the first single released back in April of 2015. Similar to “Victorious,” “Hallelujah” does not age well and becomes irritating over time. Brendon focuses too much on showing off his vocal talent, resulting in a song that barely hits the 3-minute mark because he basically left out an entire chorus. The stripped-down closing tag should have been the pinnacle of the tune as the bridge section, but since it’s just thrown on at the end, it’s borderline forgettable and doesn’t pack the punch that it had the potential to. “Hallelujah” does actually stand out as the first decent song on the album so far in terms of lyricism and features a robust horn department. While Urie does coalesce horns all throughout the album, the styles in which they are utilized are exceedingly different.

brendon2

“Emperor’s New Clothes” is the fourth track and introduces computerized components even more, from the opening synthetic melody to the distorted voice inflections. The songwriting echoes Brendon’s rise to fame and now taking over the band name entirely for himself, hinting that Death of a Bachelor is basically “the end of eras,” i.e. Panic! before becoming Brendon’s solo career. (We’ll talk more about that later.) “Emperor’s New Clothes” also displays the horn section and hey, sometimes you can actually hear the guitars! However, the vocal performance is again bothersome and gloaty. The high notes are virtually unnecessary and exasperating. As much as I want to love this track, the lyrics ultimately turn me off personally considering how conceited Brendon comes across. (We’ll also talk more about that later as well.)

Remember when Brendon described “Death of a Bachelor” as a mix of Beyoncé and Frank Sinatra? Yeah, I do too, and I was excited, but this song is disappointing. The production quality is great and all, but the problem here is literally just Brendon Urie. I can’t stand the way he sings this song, it’s so over-the-top and bombastic. The same cancer has been infecting this entire album so far: the vocal melodies are simply annoying. I really want to like these songs, but Brendon’s choral performances just make me want to turn it off and delete it from my library. How much more conceited can you be with, “When you think of me/Am I the best you’ve ever had?” I thought we left this immature egotism in A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which was slightly understandable in that time period because he wasn’t nearly 30 years old. Jesus, all I can say when I listen to “Death of a Bachelor” is, “Can you shut up?” Skip.

“Crazy = Genius” is the sixth piece on the record and is characterized by achingly simple guitar melodies but also an ear-catching horn section. This tune is the key swing article of Death of a Bachelor, which should have also been expanded upon alongside the style of “Hallelujah.” (If he had made a record based off these two songs, it might actually be prudent and listenable.) The lyricism of “Crazy = Genius” is moderately introspective when mentioning The Beach Boys’s Mike Love, Dennis, and Brian Wilson. Brian was the “genius” behind the ’60s sensation while Mike Love was against Wilson’s more innovative approaches. Yet, appropriately, Urie says he’ll “never be Dennis Wilson,” who began a solo career to continue the “beautiful, happy, spiritual music” The Beach Boys had originally created. Brendon says that “if crazy equals genius, then I’m a fucking arsonist, I’m a rocket scientist,” meaning he’s essentially insane enough to be a genius. Of course, that’s debatable considering how disarrayed this latest record is.

The seventh track is “LA Devotee,” which I surprisingly don’t have many issues with. “LA Devotee” is quite possibly the best piece on Death of a Bachelor, and even though the higher notes displayed in the chorus after the key change are a bit over Urie’s head, he peculiarly pulls them off exceptionally well. The song is an enjoyable and catchy ode to the Los Angeles city life with excellent songwriting in the lyrical department and balance of the organic instrumentation (brass section) with the electronic aspects. “LA Devotee” creates imagery of neon lights and desert skies, and this is exactly what we’ve been expecting from Death of a Bachelor. While Brendon discusses his recent marriage and “settling down” in many of the songs, this record also largely revolves around the party scene of the city, similar to “Vegas Lights” from its predecessor. “LA Devotee” stands as a testament to Urie’s descriptive lyricism and newfound spirit for having a night out on the town.

The next song, “Golden Days,” details the discovery of old Polaroids, allowing Brendon to examine the concept of time and aging. The verses of “Golden Days” are musically ominous and portentous, but the chorus is exciting and provocative, minus the vexatiously prolonged syllables of, “Golden days, golden days,” being repeated over and over. The theme of this piece is ultimately carpe diem, seizing the current moment and having fun in order to reminisce fondly on in the future. “Golden Days” is a revolt against “growing older” and is decisively one of the better tracks on the album, but it just doesn’t fit. Like I said, Death of a Bachelor is more of a collection of songs than a well-rounded record because “Golden Days,” for example, doesn’t flow with the jazzy vibe displayed earlier. Yes, it’s a decent song, but not a decent addition to the lineup so far.

“The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty” is enjoyable for its musicality with the blend of electronic ingredients and more natural apparatus, but the lyrical content is extremely confusing. Brendon, I gotta know, what the heck are you talking about? At first, I thought this song could be about how the original members of Panic! have all departed except Urie, (namely in the first verse,) but the second part of the first verse makes just about zero sense when coupled with the beginning part. Then the chorus kicks in, which doesn’t line up with either of the ideas that have been introduced so far. The second verse completes the theme highlighted in the first part of the first verse, but then the bridge does nothing else to complement it even further. I can commend “The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty” for its musical prospect, but the coherence of the actual songwriting is undetected.

The tenth song, “House of Memories,” is similar to “Golden Days” because it doesn’t fit! It’s a fabulous tune, from the earnest lyricism to the balance of instrumentation, except for Brendon’s straining vocals in the bridge. But “House of Memories” just can’t find a home on this record dominated by grandiloquence and jazz influences. “House of Memories” does begin to slow down the full-length and offers a reflective look at a conflicted writer torn between loving their current partner and finding themselves stuck on past sweethearts, painting the idea that he’s nearly afraid to get close in fear of being heartbroken yet again. This song is another one of the better tracks on Death of a Bachelor, but still certainly not Urie’s best work.

And finally, “Impossible Year” wraps up the album, but on a rather dismal note. While Urie does try to sell this track as emotional and heartfelt, it’s just a sad vocal imitation of Sinatra and incoherent lyrics. Honestly, “Impossible Year” falls flat on its face and is less than memorable. Urie’s lower octave is obviously not capable of such eloquence and simulation when he seems to lose touch with the deeper pitches. The musicality is a sudden turn that the album could have used more of to set up this abrupt transition, maybe another slower piano-based track earlier on would have helped buoyed this tune along instead of allowing it to just fall off into the pits of being forgettable and unexpected. The lyrics are more than likely outlining the withdrawing of past band members, considering the lines, “There’s no you and me/This impossible year/Only heartache and heartbreak,” are probably not illustrating Urie’s recent marriage. But his pretension undervalues the poignant candor of such lyrics by the piece simply acting as Brendon’s deficient stab at emulating Frank Sinatra.

Overall, Death of a Bachelor scores a 6/10. It’s not terrible, but it’s rudely disappointing. I did find myself coming back to a handful of these songs, but individually because they don’t jive well together, and I do tend to get some of the more enjoyable melodies stuck in my head. Brendon seems to focus too much on showing off his vocal ability rather than writing a coherent, well-rounded record. Look, Brendon, you’ll never be Frank Sinatra or Freddie Mercury. (That poor cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” gave me a disease.) If you wanna make a name for yourself, try pushing new boundaries and setting your own trends instead of ripping off other artists. *cough* Fall Out Boy. *cough*

Urie has a niche that works for him, and as much as I can respect artists stepping outside their comfort zones and trying new things, it just didn’t work on Death of a Bachelor. Brendon should plainly go solo and drop the Panic! name so his new albums can’t be compared to Panic!’s past work. I feel like I would have been somewhat more receptive or at least more understanding of it if it had been published as a solo project. It still would’ve have been a messy record, but at least I wouldn’t be able to say it’s not “a good Panic! album” because there is a standard carried with their name. It shows that Brendon is basically using the band’s name for recognition to garner more profit and publicity. For a guy who is so painfully full of himself, you would think he’d be more than happy to market his own name! My main issue with this record and Urie himself is just that: his obnoxious ego. (I mean, seriously, his Twitter bio says “35% talent, 65% water.” Like, do we really need a popular performer to rub his talent in our faces all the time?) It’s why most of the melodies on this album suffered, because Brendon was too concentrated on boasting his vocal skills than actually making something that sounds pleasant to the ears. Also, former bassist Dallon Weekes did not contribute creatively on Death of a Bachelor at all and was demoted solely to a touring member, which is essentially Brendon saying, “I want to do this record all by myself. It’s gonna be The Brendon Urie Show. I want it my way.” (No Sinatra pun intended.) So if he wanted this record to be his so badly, why didn’t he just begin a solo career with it? Sorry, Brendon, your attempt to be the “jazzy Fall Out Boy” is not a Panic! album in my book, and it’s the weakest full-length in their discography to date.

Hopefully Brendon’s and his fanbase’s inability to accept criticism (click here) won’t be lavished upon this review. I want to end this post with this: I am a huge Panic! at the Disco fan, mainly due to their first four long-players, but Death of a Bachelor really rubbed me the wrong way. I want to love this album, I really do, and I really tried, but it’s just not working for me personally. I’ll keep spinning their earlier records for as long as I can, but I just can’t bring myself to love this latest addition. I have hope that Brendon’s next project can make a comeback, however.

What do you think of Death of a Bachelor? Let us hear it in the comments below!

  • Best songs: “LA Devotee,” “House of Memories,” “Golden Days”
  • Worst songs: “Death of a Bachelor,” “Impossible Year,” “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time”