La Dispute - Panorama (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

La Dispute

Panorama (2019)

EPITAPH records

La Dispute are one of the few bands from The Wave that really haven't changed much about their style. Sure, they've evolved and aren't plugging the spastic, youthful exuberance kind of shouting and angst into their music anymore, but the spine of old is still there. They pay homage to their roots on all their albums, even while slightly shifting and recalibrating, but ultimately they're quite similar to what they were back in the day. Now, while peers like Touche Amore and Pianos Become the Teeth did totally change tones, LD has relatively stuck to their old (and dare I say, best) self because at the end of the day, there isn't much that needs to tweaked with Jordan Dreyer's style of wordspeak layered over the band's unique indie/emo/post-hardcore musical aesthetic. And once more, this backdrop serves him well as LD churn out another piece of poetry, another heartfelt novel that sinks to the depths of your soul through Panorama.

I never thought I'd see them on Epitaph, who's range is crazy right now in terms of bands on the roster, but again, it's refreshing to see the label co-opting all the bands I mentioned. Smart business, but also, it adds artistic flair to the ranks as opposed to music that's just a product. And in that sense, this album is vintage LD when you look at how the songs are arranged and the directions they take. I heard fans complaining that the musical approach feels off and they don't like the strategy where producer Will Yip (who works on so many Epi bands for a thicker, flushed mainstream rock sound) raises the levels of the guitars and here, the instruments drown out Jordan's voice. Their gripe is his vocals (or lack thereof) are kinda like Geoff Rickly's Thursday where you want the flaws at the forefront, especially as his style is spoken word. Well, I didn't find this to be an issue and some fans say that according to what platforms you use, it's problematic. Well, to me, the levels sound fine, and even if his voice was lost, it's prominent enough to highlight more of the technical side and overall cutting intricacies of the band I've loved since Altair/La Vega.

That said, This album's perfectly titled because you get a wider view of life and I appreciate that cross section, especially after having buried three loved ones over the last eight months. It's love, loss and life bundled into one and LD's emotions are refracted as ever. This reflects on the various styles that are split across the record where you get the anxiety of Wildlife, the calmness and soothing aura of Rooms of the House and the anger and energy of Vancouver ... all balled up into one fist.

"Fulton Street II" and "Footsteps at the Pond" are great examples of how all these are melded, giving you the closest thing to "Said the King..." -- with thick baselines and frenetic guitars that rarely lose pace and contribute to the band's most alluring emo/post-hardcore essence. When you listen to the grunge tones and overall rock and roll vibe stuffed in here, you can tell Yip is indeed bringing his influence over heavily from working with bands like Title Fight, Turnover and Citizen, and while it may seem like a left-field decision at first, it really does work. Think of "Stay Happy There" and you'll get the idea, which is a big win for me as it's the kind of effort I wanted more of in the last record. I will also admit that while I've been critical quite a bit of Yip's stuff in the past, when he hits the mark, he really makes an impact. "View From Our Bedroom Window" is another prime example of this as it's guitar-centric with sharp melodies which overall feels like a mature band deciding to lash out and move away from the drawl of old. I personally didn't want too many of the slower jams like "Such Small Hands" etc. but even when these songs do figure in, it's all so well balanced.

There's also a smart sense of how other sounds like blues and jazz (and hey, those American Football/Prawn horns) are incorporated as they all kick in on songs like "Rhodonite and Grief", painting an image of a band that no longer needs to embrace isolation. They're more in tune with the world and its people, and that shift away from their introverted and confined sound is remarkably done here -- and note, it's something I admit I never wanted them to do as it's just the way we emo's like to live.

When all's said and done, the record dips and swells (see "Fulton Street I") to reflect the oscillations of life and from these tracks here, it's hard to call LD and The Wave nothing short of timeless. These messages are immortal and LD just so happens to be the most consistent of the bunch in terms of iconic, punchy signatures, while painting such a beautiful mural with so much depth that it's hard not to lose yourself. Trust me when I say this is a canvas worth every second of watching (thanks to the interactive game they also have out for the record) and listening to as you zone out on a sunset to set your week off right. In a word, their panoramic view reminds you that, after all, life is indeed magical and we need to appreciate it and the people we love for those fleeting moments we're alive on this godforsaken plane.