Working at the golf course, I spend around 2-4 hours on a mower every morning depending on the plan for the day. I am constantly looking for new music to keep me company as I cut greens. Recently I stumbled upon Panic! at the Disco’s “Pretty. Odd.” album. I had purchased their most recent album “Death of a Bachelor” on iTunes when it came out on the basis that I loved their iconic single “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” and the 2013 album “Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die.” I had not explored their first three albums as much as the most recent two — and man, was I missing out on some damn good music.
I downloaded their full discography to my phone and began listening to it as I cut greens. I was astounded at the contrasts between each album. “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” reminds me of old-style folk and carnival music while somehow sticking to the pop punk genre (the album art also suggests this theme). But “Pretty. Odd.” What an album. The first track I thought to be a cute love letter to the fans, and the second track, “Nine in the Afternoon” to be a logical next step in the sound developed in “Fever.”
And then track two: “She’s A Handsome Woman.” My first instinct was to check my phone to see if this really was a PATD track. The hook “go on” layered with the old-school tone and rhythm of the guitar sounded like something the Beatles would produce. Yet, when Brendon Urie comes in with the vocals, I can finally decipher exactly what artist is performing. The chorus is catchy as hell, and balances the PATD sound with this Beatles-esque sound. Track three, “Do You Know What I’m Seeing?” is a minor key verse alternating with a major key chorus — and it works beautifully. The instrumentation in “That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed)” is wonderful — bells layered with a lovely electric guitar tone, and the addition of the occasional organ lick. “I Have Friends in Holy Spaces” is reminiscent of old vaudevillian jazz, with a clarinet and trombone playing lively countermelodies underneath a ukulele and lyrics. It is not very long but I would listen to it for hours. “Northern Downpour” is calm, sweet, and melodic with simple yet effective use of harmony. It is hard to believe that the same band that performed “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” produced this lovely track, or the next one, “When the Day Met the Night” — a poetic love story between the (slightly metaphorical) sun and moon. I cannot help but really appreciate the triumphant, exuberant use of trumpets in the background and the underlying string section. It is refreshing to hear a band make good use of non-“rock band” instruments. There are some songs, like Jason Derulo’s “Trumpets” or Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” that have reduced wonderful instruments to simple tags that repeat without development. I very much respect PATD for respecting the instruments they use and writing music that allows for talent to shine through.
I will stop boring you with a track by track analysis. Let’s just get to the verdict: my favourite aspects of the album are its complete originality in style, contrast, instrumentation, and inventive lyrics; while sounding like a tribute to the sound of the Beatles (listen to Beyond the Sea and tell me it doesn’t sound exactly like a Beatles tune. The beginning of “Northern Downpour” and“Mad As Rabbits” even separates the instruments in stereo sound the way the Beatles did, with the tambourine/piano in the left ear and guitar/vocals/horns in the other. There is no mistaking where the inspiration came from).
I love each and every one of PATD’s five studio albums, but “Pretty. Odd.” is by far my favourite. It stands out from the other four albums in a way that continues to fascinate and entertain me. This album has been on repeat for a few days now, and I have yet to tire of listening to any one of its seventeen tracks.