Panic! At the Disco: Vices and Virtues

While the loss of three band members probably set off widespread panic for some devoted fans, it evidently did not damage P!ATD all too much. Vices and Virtues is a return to form for the remaining duo. The last album released by P!ATD, Pretty. Odd, was in fact, an oddity. With Vices, it’s almost as if they rebooted a series.

First off, this album demands that the listener sit through it start to finish. You will not fully appreciate the work if you skip around. It uses intermittent interludes at the end of certain tracks to bridge the gaps in chord changes, allowing a smooth listening experience. If you do choose to browse through the album, however, there are two highlights for this album that are exceptionally fun.. These are “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” and “Sarah Smiles.” They are both very different in sound but they are an overview of the themes within the album.

Urie and Smith actually start the album with “The Ballad of Mona Lisa,” originally written before Pretty. Odd., and now used as the first single for this project. It scores a haunting melody over their usual heavy bass and guitar riffs.  This sets-up the direction they take for the remainder of the album. It begins with the music box ditty. Urie then enters with “She paints her fingers with a close precision.” The poetic lyrics continue to describe our heroine/anti-heroine until we get to a heart-thumping “Say What you mean!/Tell me I’m right!/ And let the sun rain down on me!” If you thought at that point you’ve reached the height of the song you’re mistaken.  It reaches a higher level with its pop-punk head slamming riffs on the chorus, “Whoa! Mona Lisa, you’re guaranteed to run this town!” It follows this pattern for the next verse-bridge-chorus triplet, then diverts to an altered bridge that drops the bass and drums until it hits the final chorus. Once I’ve reached the end of this track, you’re hooked.

“Sarah Smiles” is actually the second to last track on the album (unless you get the Deluxe Edition). It starts with an accordion and transitions into acoustic guitar and the lines, “I was fine just a guy living on my own./Waiting for the sky to fall./Then you called and changed it all, Doll.” We already know this is mellowed love song. It’s bass-happy tune gets more lovable as it progresses. You will put your guard down for the bridge’s sentiment, and then suddenly Wham! you’re hit with the ever-so-catchy chorus of “Sarah smiles like Sarah doesn’t care./She lives in her world so unaware./Does she know that my destiny lies with her?/Oh, Sarah./ Are you saving me?” Cue trumpets and second verse.

And those are only two in a list of fantastic songs. This album is near-perfect in its construction. It has everything you would need from them: an up-tempo happy-go-lucky beat in “Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind),” a slow acoustic ballad, “Always,” the darker side of synth in  “Let’s Kill Tonight” and “Hurricane,” and the shout-it-out-loud anthem “Memories.” That’s not to say the remaining tracks are anything less than good.

“Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)” is pure drum driven joy. With very small traces of A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” in the guitar and a variety of playful synthesizer overlay, we get a summer theme song in the works. This song will be blowing out speakers once it’s released as the second single in April. Hopefully the video will be as thrilling as the one for “The Ballad of Mona Lisa.”

Heart-felt sentiment and sincerity are the only two words that truly explain the track “Always”. It’s a bittersweet ode to one’s love. Unlike the rest of the songs on the album, this one is played-down. The orchestral instruments like the horns and strings get far much more attention here than they do as background for the rest of the album.

“Let’s Kill Tonight,” “Hurricane,” and “Memories” all showcase the charm and charisma that P!ATD had back in A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. The lyrics aren’t as full of quip, but they manage well enough. “Let’s Kill Tonight” is Gothic from start to finish. It’s atmospheric sounds will make your hair rise and your feet dance.  Amazingly enough, I can probably list this song alongside Evanescence in my Moody Days Mix. It’s not as dark by any means, but it’s ethereal in its own way. “Hurricanes,” likewise hearkens to No Doubt’s “Return of Saturn” and early “Rock Steady” days.  It has a punkier and mild ska vibe to it. And “Memories” has moments where I see definite similarities to Kelly Clarkson’s style. There’s a touch of “My Life Would Suck Without You” in the progression with the mood and frustration of “Since U Been Gone.” The bravado in the chorus, “Oh, memories, where’d you go?/You were all I’ve ever known./ How I miss yesterday./How I let it fade away” is perfect for your angst ridden days.

All comparison’s aside, the album is different from most music out on the market. This not your typical alternative/punk band. They have much more variety in their instrumentation, their lyrics could belong in the Romantic era, and Urie’s singing is far from the whiny, irritating sound we all have sadly gotten used to in this genre of music.

With all this said and done, the album is worth the price you pay. It’s well-composed, the production is clean and crisp, and the booklet it comes with is incredibly beautiful. If you order it on their Official Site, you can even get bundle packages with special tour merchandise. You get high quality all the way around with P!ATD’s latest release. Check it out if you can.

Dirty Pop: Songs That Currently Engage My Earbuds

Here is yet another post dedicated to listing my current music intrigues. You will see some new faces and some familiar ones from past posts, however, every song and artist I list here is worth at least one listen. Consider it a lesson in opening your musical taste buds… if your ears could taste.

Note: They are in no special order.

Panic! At the Disco – The Ballad of Mona Lisa

Even though Panic! At the Disco lost three of its original members, lead singer Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith managed to pull together a new album. The first single, “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” retains some of the charm for which the band is typically known (a so-called Baroque Pop sound) and plenty of new and rejuvenating traits as well. It’s nice to see the new music video features the same Steampunk and Victorian garb as their previous stuff.

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I had done a post a few months back about the under-appreciated music in 2010. I’ve decided that I’m going to make it a regular thing to post current obsessions. Sharing music interests is a great way not only to promote the artists but to widen your own musical tastes.

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A Nod to the Under-Appreciated (Part 2)

I started this blog in Part 1, in case you missed it. Well, this is how I view it: There are so many talented and brilliant people who deserve recognition. In reality, some less talented people will get more media coverage because the industry knows it will be easier to package and sell.  Sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have changed the game a bit. Because of these sites people share lesser known treasures with each other. It’s a word-of-mouth form of publicity that reaches a bigger audience. Hopefully that logic satisfies you. If not, suck it because it’s the best I have to offer.

I shall continue the list below, starting with no. 6…

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A Nod to the Under-Appreciated (Part 1)

As I weed through my iTunes library I’m beginning to realize just how unfair life really is. I’m not talking about a “search iTunes for sulky music” kind of unfair. I’m talking about the fact that “rising stars” are not simply the product of talent and hard work, but also marketability. It’s not like this is an unknown fact of life, after all, you probably won’t be able to keep track of all the people in your lifetime you think are super talented but overlooked.  As a result, I am dedicating this post to the under-publicized and under appreciated in 2010.

We heard plenty from Ke$ha, Rihanna, Drake, Eminem, GaGa and Katy Perry. In fact, if you listened to the radio that’s probably all you heard all year. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m as guilty as anybody liking the popular stuff. I just hope that some of the options below interest you as well as help give some love and spotlight to the artists. (Note: They are in no specific order).

1. Have you heard the new Skrillex, aka Sonny Moore, album Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites? If you have, kudos to you. If you haven’t, you’re sincerely missing out on some really inventive dance/electronic goodness. It takes the genre and twists into it a deliciously filthy and gritty sound. Skrillex proves that vocals do not need to dominate a track- something people who appreciate Daft Punk will understand. At moments this album hearkens to old school 8- and 16-bit games and it does so with some serious force. If you listen to only one track from the album, try “Kill Everybody.” It’s both dirty and sexy. If you want something a little more mainstream by him check out “Weekends!!!” The Zedd remix (another upcoming music star) is spectacular.

2. You may have heard of Lykke Li because of the song “Little Bit” off of Youth Novels (2008).

Drake sort of took the song and did his thing with it in this “remix.” In any case, Lykke Li seems to be preparing herself for another big release. If her EP Get Some is any indication of what she intends to give us, I’m 100% on board.

She’s much more fierce this time around. I expect great things from her. Words to those who already made it through the pop machine glass ceiling (I’m looking at you Florence + the Machine): If you can do anything for experimental and alternative pop/rock, it would be to help draw attention to similar artists. Power and safety in numbers!

3. Dan Black is another artist worth mention. His album UN was released way back in February. I’ll be upfront and say that his voice isn’t the strongest but he hits all the right emotional notes. It’s nice to get an album that doesn’t take itself too seriously. From the honest and bittersweet opener “Symphonies” to the paint-the-town-red “Pump My Pumps,” Dan Black provides a heart-to-heart conversation with his audience. He has gotten recognition from MTV, and he even performed for LOGO’s NewNextNow awards. The video below is for “Symphonies.” How many movie references can you recognize?

4. Owen Pallett is a genius. That is not just a statement. That is truth. He is classically trained in music; he arranges, then rearranges music, and he performs all the parts of his songs live solo (he uses pedals to put each individual part on repeat). Each performance is a treasure. He plays keyboards, violin and sings. He was part of a duo in an effort to re-create some musical motifs from the Final Fantasy games starting in 2005. However, these weren’t just some cover songs, oh no, the tracks really formed two complete re-envisioned conceptual albums. I was lucky enough to see him open for The Dirty Projectors (another shout out for good music) at Terminal 5 in September. The solo work he showcased from Heartland is endearing and lively. He’s sincere, creative and original. This is music that will most likely never hit the mainstream and that is just saddening. “Midnight Directives,” “Red Sun No. 5” and “Flare Gun” show his versatility in musical composition. Unfortunately, I can’t find a good quality video from the night I saw him but this video from another venue should do him justice:

5. Ryan Star got some attention for his album 11:59 but not nearly enough. He’s an interesting one. I can’t pinpoint what he sounds like. At moments I hear Bon Jovi-esque rock, like with “Start A Fire.” Other times I hear tinges of Duncan Sheik, as in “Right Now.” I think it just shows that he’s got one thing in mind: providing irresistible pop/rock. That’s exactly what he does, too. The contrast between the hard-hitting “Brand New Day” and the subtlety in “Losing Your Memory” should convince you that this guy has real singer-songwriter potential for 2011 and beyond. If anybody’s listening they should know his sound rivals American Idols David Cook and Kris Allen, and he did it all on his own.

I will continue this blog post, numbers 6-10, in Part 2. I hope that some of the stuff here will help you build your music library.