Feature, Music, Video Games

The Memory in the Music

Everyone has a song they listen to that reminds them of times past. Music is something that permeates almost every experience. Video games especially use music to help them weave their interactive tales. Even a terrible video game can have great music. That’s why I’m going to list some of my favorite video game songs. This list will be far from comprehensive, to the point where certain people might feel “slighted” that I didn’t include their favorite song. For this, I’m sorry. I wish I could post links to every song ever made…but I can’t.

Some of these will be boss themes. Some of these will be regular tracks. They’re all great, so I’m not even going to number them. I’ll list them as I think of them. But here goes it anyway.

(I’m trying to avoid being obvious here, so you’re not going to see the Mario theme song or something everyone resonates with. Just a note)

I could probably dedicate an entire article to the purely amazing music in the Metal Gear Solid series, so I’m just going to pick one…and why not The Best is Yet To Come from Metal Gear Solid? After traversing the menus and beginning your game, this song is the first you hear…and it’s beautiful. You only hear the first (maybe) 30 seconds of it, but you hear the entirety of it during the game’s ending credits. It’s chilling and absolutely wonderful to listen to.

 

Shadow of the Colossus was truly an amazing game. Your only enemies were the 16 imposing Colossi and each battle felt like an epic encounter. None fit this bill better than Malus, the 16th and final Colossus, however. The fight against Malus was the best in the game and this song, entitled Demise of the Ritual, added so much to it. The scene and the imposing nature of the creature were only accentuated by this orchestral accomplishment. A lot of it is relatively understated and quiet, however the impending sense of dread you feel just listening to it, knowing exactly what you’re facing…it’s unbeatable.

 

Like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy is one of those series that could (and probably should) take up an entire article about game music by itself. With this, however, I find myself needing to pick a few different songs (though I’ll only embed one). The one I choose just so happens to be Liberi Fatali, the main theme of Final Fantasy VIII. While it’s no secret I wasn’t overly fond of FF8 (battle system being the heart of the issue), that doesn’t take away from the amazing music. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started this game “back in the day,” but this made me feel epic in every way.

 

Of course, Final Fantasy has many fantastic main themes. Final Fantasy VII (on piano being my preferred method of listening) and X are great. I’ve also got to hand it to Dancing Mad and One Winged Angel (the final battle themes of Kefka Palazzo and Sephiroth, repsectively). Dark Messenger is also probably one of FF’s coolest songs. And of course…this beauty. There are many many many (many many many) more songs, and I don’t want to get yelled at for leaving them out. I love them all.

Banjo-Tooie was one of my favorite games on the N64. Despite all of the music being super awesome, the music that plays while you run around the Witchyworld level has a special place in my heart. It creeped me out when I was younger, but the level itself was really fun and the music added to its atmosphere. Also, the Mr. Patch boss battle? Yikes.

 

I’m now going to jump into The Legend of Zelda and upset more people who don’t agree with my song choices. The one I’m choosing for this article is the music that plays during the Blizetta boss battle in Twilight Princess. It’s a good song and it’s something that seemingly comes out of your worst Tim Burton-y nightmare. But also while we’re on the subject of Twilight Princess…ugh. This being said, Koji Kondo’s music endures throughout the series in every way, and all of it is fantastic. But yes. Blizetta.

 

Pokemon has some wonderful music in it, but I chose Ho-Oh’s battle theme from Pokemon Heart Gold. Despite Lugia being my preferred legendary choice, Ho-Oh’s theme demolished Lugia’s no problem. Such a fantastic song. The Asian influence in it sounds great and matches up with the locale and the Pokemon fantastically.

 

People can say whatever they want about Asura’s Wrath (interesting being one of the words I’d use), but its music was great. Specifically the use of Dvorak’s Symphony No 9: From the New World, 4th Movement during the battle with Augus. An epic battle accentuated by a truly epic song.

I love the Phoenix Wright games. They’re great for many reasons, and the music is one of them. The song Objection! resonates with me because it usually plays when there’s a break in the case. When the work I’ve done pays off and Phoenix finally makes some incredible headway, I shout “OBJECTION!” and this song plays. It’s a gratifying feeling because I know that I was successful with my choices at that moment.
Have you ever heard Journey‘s soundtrack? Why not? I honestly have no words beyond this for how beautiful the game is, but the soundtrack leaves me similarly speechless. The soundtrack is the first video game soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy award (to be determined at the 55th edition of the show this coming Sunday). I chose the song I Was Born for This, a truly moving piece of music…but the whole soundtrack deserves to be consumed wholly.

 

You didn’t actually think we were going to get away with something from Kingdom Hearts, did you? Of course, I love the music of these games, but only being able to pick one…I chose the music that plays while fighting Terranort in Birth By Sleep. It’s such an epic song, but given what just happened in the story at that point, it reflects the sadness and urgency of the situation perfectly.

 

I was going to stop with ten songs, but I couldn’t in good conscience…so you get three bonus songs. That’s thirteen for the price of ten! Boy howdy!

(If we’re being real here…there are way more than thirteen selections in this article, but who’s counting? Not me, obviously.)

Devil May Cry has always had crazy intense music, and it’s hard to pick one song. This is why I’m going into my recent memory to pull out the boss music for Bob Barbas in DmC: Devil May CryThe fight with Bob is one of my favorite boss battles in recent memory. The obvious parody of extreme right wing news organizations (Bill O’Reilly most prominently) is great and the music adds to the atmosphere, especially the beginning as if you’re about to tune into one of Bob’s news broadcasts. It’s a classic fight with some great music behind it.

At the beginning of Assassin’s Creed II, you race Ezio’s brother Frederico to the top of the church. It is at this point that you hear Venice Rooftops for the first time. This is the song that plays during race sequences during the game. The song is perfect for race sequences. The heart pounding drums and guitar add a sense of urgency to complete the race on time, but the lighter tones of the song (through certain wind instruments and choral singing) add a sort of free feel to the equation. Assassin’s Creed II (and the series) have fantastic music, but this is one of my favorite for the energy it conveys. (Special mention to the heart wrenching Ezio’s Family, which is a tonal flip in the other direction)

 

Last, but not least, I give you a Mass Effect song. This song, called The End Run, plays as part of the suicide mission during Mass Effect 2. There’s not a whole lot to say about it, because it says a lot for itself. The suicide mission was a very intense way to end the game. This really adds to that. The beginning really makes you feel like you’re about to attack something monumentus and the ending/last half is really ambiguous. The suicide mission could go either way and the ending kind of feels like a triumph and a failure, adjusting itself to the situation you’re in. I don’t know how it does it…but it just does.

Hm. I guess there was some stuff to say about it.

 

That is the end of my list, but not the end of my favorite gaming music. The songs in video games trigger memories. Good, bad, or otherwise…the music of games is truly key to bringing the most out of them. There’s music in every game and more often than not, it’s fantastic. I regret that I could not include more (for space’s sake) and I encourage suggestions to add to this list. They are always welcome.

Though I do still anticipate a few “how could you forget ___’s soundtrack?” type dealies, I’ll counter with an all encompassing “I like the soundtrack and all the songs from [insert your favorite game here].”

Good day.

Music

Dubstep: The “Techno” of the 2010s


Let’s get something straight before we move any further: Dubstep as referring to bass heavy, “wobble” sounding, and electronic music championed by Skrillex, is NOT how dubstep started life. So, before we begin our dissection of the genre, let’s have a brief history lesson.

Dubstep, like most things electronic music, began life in Western Europe, specifically London, England, in the late 90’s. Originally, the genre was more experimental and very much so based around a handful of remixes and drum-and-bass heavy odds and ends. Thanks to a few BBC Radio One DJs the genre became more accepted and started to grow. By 2003-2004, dubstep was officially a thing.

Fast forward to 2012 and it seems that the word dubstep has caught up with “techno”, as far as people using the genre as a blanket word to encompass all electronic based music. Gone are the subtle and more sophisticated dubstep tracks that the London underground garnered and now every Top 40 single from Rihanna to Britney Spears is getting the dubstep remix treatment. It seems that the original form of dubstep has since become “drumstep”, or drum-and-bass tracks infused with the spirit of dubstep in its purest form.

You may notice a hint of disdain in my tone. The reason for that is because some, recent Skrillex interviewer Alex Chapman being one, have referred to dubstep as the new “punk” genre, and this I don’t appreciate. I understand the comment, since dubstep uses bass tones as rhythm sections and since dubstep tracks and artists boast these “devil may care” attitudes in the media, but in my opinion, as a listener of electronic music for many years, 2005-2009 electro artists will always be The Clash of the electronic music world. Ed Banger Records had it right, with a delectable blend of French House and 60’s-70’s British Punk, with such acts as Vicarious Bliss, Monsieur Oizo, Krazy Baldhead, and the deceased DJ Mehdi, not to mention Justice. But it seems that the new wave of “Prime Time” dubstep, so affectionately nick named “brostep” on the web, has taken the intricacies and music theory out to the curb and replaced it with high octane visuals and a very A.D.D. heavy key demographic.

(www.manhattan2ibiza.com)

I don’t mind dubstep, in all honesty, especially in waves, but I am curious about what dubstep means in reference to the future of electronic music. Dubstep is definitely here to stay, like it or not, and like all things these days, you really have to pick through it to get to the good stuff. So, it took electronic music 20-30 years to get four stereotypes: techno, electro, house, and dubstep. I wonder how long it’ll take before the rest of the spectrum of electronic music is fully accepted.

This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but with a “WahhwahhahhahahahWubbubbubbubbWAH”.

Music

Back in Operation: At the Drive-In to Reunite

That’s right guys! After years of  fans begging, pleading, and even attempting to listen to Sparta, At The Drive-In, one of the most successful post-hardcore groups of the ‘90s and early millennium, is back!

(www.altpress.com)

The Texas based group, well known for their unorthodox sound and energetic stage presence, was well on their way to stardom after releasing their break-out album, Relationship of Command, in 2000. But  just a few months later, they inexplicably split in their prime due in large part to artistic differences. While the breakup resulted in the creation of several capable groups, most notably The Mars Volta, the premature nature of the split left fans understandably confused and unsatisfied. 11 years later, fans are hoping to finally get some closure.

It has been confirmed that they will be performing during both weekends of Coachella (April 15 and 22), but other than this, very few details have been given since the announcement of the reunion.  Fans will have to wait to see if this will lead to a CD or a tour.

To add to the excitement, The Mars Volta has announced that they will be releasing their first new CD in three years, named Noctourniquet, on March 27th.

Fans of these groups have a lot to look forward to in the next few months, and if they are anything like me, they are anxious and excited to find out if it will be worth the wait.

 

(Banner credit: rolodex.free.fr)

Music

So…You Want To Be A DJ?


A wise man once said “DJs are like today’s guy with an acoustic guitar at a party”.

I know plenty a person who would take offense to this statement even though there is some truth to be had. Never mind the fact that the aforementioned “wise man” is myself, it seems that DJing has trended in the past couple of years. Everyone is getting into the act of DJing and yet there are still plenty of folks that are willing to become die hards, but can’t seem to drop the needle on the right groove.

A DJ set up in atmospheric black light (www.thomann.de)

In this week’s “So…” I’m going to talk about how I got into DJing, several ways that you can get into DJing, and I’m going to use a few hot words that you can use as ammunition in a DJ debate on your college campus.

How’d You Do It?

First things first, I’m not a self proclaimed expert. I’m a bit of a weekend warrior who DJs the occasional soror/fratern-ity events, weddings, and friends’ house parties. I do, however, manage a local, cheap, and blatant masked DJ duo that has played at some bars. Regardless, I’m going to tell you how I started and how quick it was to get proficient enough to land a gig.

It started, like most poor bedroom DJ dreams do, with a free home edition of Atomix’s Virtual DJ. Never mind my childhood of recording the radio to cassette tapes and learning to use bootlegs of Cool Edit (and eventually Adobe Audition), since those all function like DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations).

Using Virtual DJ (or VDJ) taught me timing on starting two tracks in unison, regardless of if they were beat matched or not, what sounded good together, and roughly how a real DJ mixer worked (since the program operates like a digital DJ mixer). Eventually one of my room mates invested in a real two channel DJ mixer and an external sound card, allowing us to recreate VDJ’s setup with physical hardware. This is important tip number 1: physical hardware, working with or without software, is always the better way to go with DJing, or at least learning what everything does. It is far easier to turn a handful of knobs while something is playing then to use a cursor to turn on one thing at a time and click around a screen.

The Hercules DJ Control MP3 E2 (Amazon)

Tip 2: learn with a buddy. Grab some old hardware (cheap USB stuff is a steal these days) and get to dropping tracks in and experimenting with a friend. Fun is the best way to learn, so why not?

Interfaces, Mixers, and Programs, Oh My!

I eventually moved from Virtual DJ into Native Instruments’s Traktor and Ableton Live, and sometimes both running at once, but that doesn’t mean that this move was something for everyone.

Tip 3: Try as many different setups as possible to find something that YOU like. Some folks like to use turn tables, an external sound interface, and a mixer to scratch MP3s, some people prefer simply using a USB controller and one piece of software. Some people even prefer to DJ off of iPods, so really you need to find whatever you feel comfortable with.

Glowing buttons! (www.clubglow.com)

Seriously, you can do whatever you can set your mind to with DJing, and the best way to start is by trying it! If you have trouble, join a forum, like DJ TechTools (which I adore), Google it, or look up a YouTube video. I promise, the hardest part is starting.

Another big step in the right direction is to pick a couple of different genres and look up professional DJ sets done with that style. For me, a big influence was always the BBC Radio One Essential Mixes and the Fabric Live Mixes. Listen to some pro DJ sets, look up the track listings, and try to figure out how the pros mixed the tracks together. You’ll learn that there are patterns and that things aren’t as hard/magical as they sound sometimes.

Is That All You’ve Got?

DJing, trending or not, covers A LOT of ground. I apologize if I didn’t mention your super niche preferred DJing style in this article, but I promise that I’ll come back to this topic. So, keep your pants on and keep checking back for more “So…” articles from yours truly!

 

(Banner credit: whatisdeadwait.com)

Music, Technology

So… What’s A ‘Spotify’?


Have you heard of Spotify? If you haven’t, that’s alright, a lot of people still haven’t caught on. Spotify is a music streaming service, not unlike Rhapsody, that had its first stable release on July 27th, 2011. Here’s the catch… it’s free. So that means access to Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group, and Universal labeled tracks & artists as well as tons of smaller labels and independent artists on any computer for free…but there is a bit of another catch. To earn this free account you must either be invited or join a sign-up list for invites, and with the free, base, account you’re limited to roughly 20 hours a month of listening.

Getting in is the hard part though, because once you’re in you can pay $9.99 USD a month to access the Spotify Premium service, and this is what enthralled me. Included with the Premium service is the ability to access Spotify from almost any smart phone (from iOS devices to webOS and even Sonos devices) and stream music from a 3G or 4G connection, as well as unlimited streaming. So, in a nutshell, Spotify AB (located in Stockholm, Sweden) has been perfecting a way for me to have access to almost any song that I may want to listen to while driving across the country? And you can even sync playlists so that you can play your favorite tracks without a data or internet connection? I think it’s safe to say that the war on bickering about who picks music next in the car is practically over.

As of June 16th, 2011 Spotify AB was valued at $1 billion USD. There were plans for the service to be released stateside a few years ago, since the initial release was October of 2008, but delays kept happening due to the “Big Four” record labels. Spotify also works as a great compliment to your social networking habits, “shipping” with built-in Last.FM support and the ability to share songs, albums, or even artists via Facebook, Twitter, or Email. There’s even a feature allowing you to purchase any song that you find on iTunes, Amazon, or most other digital music distribution delivery services. I’m not sure why you’d want to if you can stream it on Spotify, though.

Overall, it’s a great application/service, and if anything I’m just frustrated that it took this long for us Americans to finally have access to it. Like I mentioned before, the service is still on an invitation only basis, so if you want to join the waiting list just visit the official site, or send me a message with your email address on Facebook, Twitter, or… Google+?

Feature, Gaming, Music, Video Games

Hey! Listen! Get the Ocarina of Time 3D Soundtrack for Free!


Act fast, Legend of Zelda fans: you only have a few more hours to register your copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D with Club Nintendo before the game’s official soundtrack is no longer available!

The soundtrack contains 50 phenomenal music tracks, many of which, according to Nintendo, have never been released.  It also features special artwork made exclusively for the 3DS remake and “a special message from Mr. Miyamoto and Mr. Kondo,” the creator of The Legend of Zelda and the composer of the music, respectively.

Club Nintendo members who register their copies of the game by midnight tonight will be able to receive their copy of the limited edition soundtrack, mailed to them for free by Nintendo.  However, the offer is going fast, so be sure to register your game as soon as possible to ensure you get a copy!

For those too lazy to Google it, here’s a link with details on how to register.

…and for you latecomers, check out http://www.zreomusic.com/ .  These guys have spent the past few years recreating Zelda music in an orchestral style, and their work is genuinely amazing.

Culture, Feature, Music

Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife: It’s Record Store Day!


Having worked as a music department manager at a retail store, a part time DJ at local venues, and a co-host of a show that ran on a college station for over a year, I’ve been looking forward to Saturday, April 16th, 2011. For those of you who don’t know, every year there is a “holiday” dedicated solely to privately owned record stores (and just because your Hastings, MediaPlay, Best Buy, or what have you has vinyl doesn’t mean they count) that involves a whole mess of record labels trying to promote their acts with free giveaways, ultra-rare pressings sold only on this day, and exclusive split EP’s. On top of all of this, the record stores usually have sales of their own, sometimes free food and live music, and it’s always a lot of fun.

Just because you don’t own a record player, or have no idea why vinyl is even topical these days, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good time buying a record that comes packaged in massive album art, and more often than not comes with a digital download code. You can get a quality turn-table for little to no money at all these days (if quality isn’t an issue) or for a little over $150, like the two Numark TT200‘s that I own, if you’re into better sound without breaking the bank. And remember, buying a limited release EP or a Record Store Day only LP, or anything of that nature, can be quite an investment, turntable or not. So get it while you can.

The official Record Store Day list can be found here, and there is one posted every year, so if you see something that you like, please get out there and find a record store near you. I saw this commercial for a record store in Decatur, AL called Excalibur Vintage and Vinyl that caught my eye, so on Saturday I’ll be driving more than two hours to support these locals, instead of going to Atlanta and having to fight hordes of audiophiles just to get a handful of records that won’t be taken already.

Don’t know where the nearest record store day is and want to get in on the festivities? The official Record Store Day site has got you covered. I’ll be bringing along a camera for the ride this weekend, so maybe you’ll get to see my experience sometime soon, and if you guys want to document the record store day fun, please, link some of your photos in the comments section and let us all gather round the platters, put some Shure cartridges down, and feast your ears to the magic of Record Store Day.
Feature, Music, News, Technology

Up In the Clouds


Amazon.com has finally done it. The website once reserved for bibliophiles and deal-hunters has step up to take a dominant position in the era of digital downloads and is probably the closest competitor in the market to iTunes. Amazon’s latest product is the Amazon Cloud Player. The Cloud Player allows Amazon users to store music in a digital holding zone and then have access to it wherever there’s an internet connection. This removes the need for a computer’s hard-drive or memory. So while iTunes needs your computer to store music, the Cloud only needs your password and an internet or Wi-Fi hook-up. This is an especially great service to Android users and Amazon has marketed the product to them more than anyone else.

I actually tested this product over the past week and found only a few faults. As someone who owns an iPod and iPhone, I generally use iTunes for my music needs. Although, I do explore Amazon for better deals on songs or albums. But with so much of my music in my iTunes catalog, though, I was confronted by a few set-backs when transitioning to the Cloud Player.

First: The Uploading
When you move to the Cloud Player, you can download an Amazon Uploader to put music from your computer into your digital space. While I did not want all my music from iTunes, it still took a good bit of time to go through and uncheck the boxes of all the things that didn’t make the cut. Once the uploading process actually started, I found myself looking to a long wait. A 6 hour wait, to be precise. This was a definite turn-off. I understand the process takes time but to wait that long for a service I don’t necessarily need and will eventually have to pay for (Look at point number two), I wasn’t really worth it. And I uploaded less than a fifth of my music library.

Second: Storage and Price
On Amazon, I am a member of Amazon Prime. I suggest every student sign for this service due to the fact that it provides special prices and free/quick shipping. Due to this membership, I get 20 GBs of storage free in the Cloud. Without it, I would get 5 GBs frees. The prices are done on a yearly basis and the you pay a dollar for every GB (100 GBs = 100 dollars). The fact that I don’t truly need Cloud Player means that I’ll probably never pay for the service and just downgrade when my free 20 GBs subscription runs out.  However, 5 GBs won’t get you very far with this service and I would never make the Cloud Player my primary library with my ability to tote around my free iTunes.

Despite these main two negative points, I was please over all with the service.  It’s simple to use and convenient.  If I owned an Android phone, I would definitely look into putting more money into this thing.

Bottom line: Amazon has done something that no other company has been able to do.  They’ve made Apple look childish and Google look painfully slow.   The Cloud Player’s interface is easy to use and is amazingly convenient.  The only two hitches come from subscription fees and the slow uploading service.  If you find yourself traveling frequently, use an Android, or don’t have your own computer, I would recommend using the Amazon Cloud Player.  However, if none those things apply to you, it may not be worth pursuing.

Feature, Music

The Value of Music


[box type=”info”]This post contains references to non-American currency! You have been warned.[/box]
Making the BBC headlines last week was the news that performance royalties paid to musicians [in the UK] is down for the first time. Ever.

You may already know what the music industry is saying about this.

The Performance Right Society (PRS), which represents over 70,000 songwriters, composers and publishers in the UK, says the amount fell a whole one percent last year; a drop of seven million pounds over 2009.

These payments are earned whenever a song is used in, for example, a television program, a night club, even a supermarket PA system, and are essential for new bands, as they are the main source of income when record sales aren’t in the millions.

PRS for Music blames the drop in high street sales and… wait for it… piracy for this drop in revenue. This is a repetitive and, quite frankly, tedious argument that the music industry (among many others) frequently use when their business is flagging in the face of changing times.

I shall take this moment to state, clearly and precisely, that this post is not advocating piracy.

The trap that pirates fall into is adopting the mentality that, because digital products are infinitely copyable, they have no value. The trap that the music industry (among others) have fallen into, is the belief that their product has the same value it had, say, five years ago, solely on the basis that it had that value five years ago.

The music industry like to cry piracy whenever sales don’t meet expectations, but I suspect the amount of damage being done by piracy is nowhere near as much as they would have you believe, and while I am not saying that digital music has no value, I think the possibility that it has less value has been sorely overlooked.

I have not done the research, nor do I posses the expertise, to make the statement that music is less valuable, but I can see why it might be.

For one thing, it seems like six out of every ten songs that is released these days are either a cover of an older song, or features samples of other songs. The previous two X Factor UK singles were covers of songs that had been in the charts in the same year!

Add to that the fact that music has so much more to compete with for your time than it ever has before. This applies to all the usual suspects in the “crying piracy” game, but they all seem to fail to grasp that the current market has a ridiculous number of options for entertainment, from video games to social networks, on demand video to millions of hours worth of free reading.

A free market is a market in which the value of a product is naturally determined by what the consumer is willing to pay for it. With the music industry, the consumers have been willing to pay the prices that music previously cost, but that is changing, and the music industry need to stop claiming that something is wrong with the world because of that.

By arguing that piracy is to blame for decreasing sales, the music industry are trying to circumvent the free market, and maintain the prices that they want to charge, rather than the prices that consumers want to pay.


For more of John Bullock’s work, visit jbullock.co.uk


Feature, Music

Time to Panic!: A Review of Vices & Virtues


Panic! at the Disco (and the exclamation point) are back with their third album. Amidst a seemingly peaceful breakup that shook the band’s fans to the core, Panic! went forward without Ryan Ross and Jon Walker. Brendon Urie (lead singer and player of various instruments) and Spencer Smith (drummer) set out to accomplish their goal for the band going forward: A more refined pop-rock vibe.

And the result is the melodic stylings of “Pretty.Odd” mixed with the edgy pop vibe of “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out”. Urie’s first foray into writing songs without Ross has paid off. He really has proven himself on this album, giving us a tremendous piece of work that might be my favorite Panic! album to date. They have adopted a “new familiar sound” for the album. While this may not make a whole lot of sense, it fits in a way. The transition from “Fever” to “Pretty.Odd” was large enough that you could definitely call it a “new sound”. However there was a familiar piece of the band that transferred over.

The same can be said for “Vices & Virtues”. It isn’t as angsty and electronic as “Fever” was, however it isn’t as mellow  as “Pretty.Odd” was. It walks a fine line, and occasionally steps over to either side, but it feels different…and yet still feels like Panic! at the Disco. It’s a fantastic new frontier for the boys, but, even two men down, they’re still as fantastic as they were back in 2005 (my god it’s been almost 6 years, hasn’t it?).

At this point, my biggest (and, to be perfectly honest, only real) complaint is the standard version of the album only has 10 songs on it. There are 5 more songs floating out there, but you have to shell out for pre-order deluxe versions to get them, unless you go for the illegal route (and…y’know…don’t do that…be a winner and pay for stuff).

I’m going to run through my four favorite songs, but they’re all worth listening to when the album drops, as they all sound great and the lyrics are all superb.

Let’s Kill Tonight: What starts out as a really up beat turns into something a tad “electro eerie”. The synthesizer and violins coupled with the chorus gives me a small chill, but the song still holds itself up on a high note the entire time.

Hurricane: A common theme that most of the songs share is that you could play them in a club or at some kind of dance, and you’d be able to dance to it. Hurricane is the leader of the pack on that front. Incredibly high energy song.

Always: Very different animal than Hurricane, this is a very low key song. Very different from a lot of the songs on the album, but still manages to fit in. It’s a short and almost necessary where it is to sort of counterbalance the high of the rest of the album. I suppose I like it because it speaks to me on a personal level (stop being nosy, you numpties), but it’s still a nice, relaxed song to listen to. Just simple guitars and bass drums behind Brendon’s voice.

Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met): This song is a very good close song. It’s still fast paced enough to keep the upbeat nature of the album going, but it heads in a direction towards the middle that makes it the perfect “wave your hands in the air and close the show” sort of song. It’s the song that wants to stay and party, but still has to leave. It has an interesting start, with young children singing in (what sounds like) French, but it soon gets into some nice muffled guitar and light piano strokes for a wonderful head bobbing number. Ending with a children’s chorus singing lines from “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” (“Mona Lisa. Pleased to please ya.”), it provides a perfect circle for this album, acting as both a nifty book end and a lead in to the first song (wherever you want to go, man).

 

I’ve listened to the songs from this album as many times as I could before writing this, and I must say it’ll take me a long time to get bored of it (if ever). It’s charged with so much rhythm and energy that it seems like Urie and Smith were trying to make up for the heartbreak of the break-up. And that’s OK with me. It was a successful venture if I’ve ever seen one. It’s so full of nods to the departed members that it’s a story about holding onto the past as much as it is letting go.

Panic! at the Disco have made, in my opinion, an unskippable album. Definitely pick this up on March 22nd when it hits shelves stateside.

 

Now hurry up and start your tour, boys. I’m ready to see you in person.

(Note: Thanks to the magical powers of Facebook, I managed to listen to this album way early. The band live streamed the entire album on the 14th and all of you missed out. Sorry.)