Album reviews: Panic! at the Disco, Ignite, Pete Astor, and The Revenant soundtrack
Death of a Bachelor
Following up the synth-pop of 2013’s Too Weird to Live, To Rare to Die!, this is the first Panic! at the Disco album since drummer Spencer Smith quit the band after his struggles with drug abuse, leaving frontman Brendan Urie as the only remaining founding member. Throughout their decade-spanning career, the Las Vegas band have always proved to be one of the more creative and theatrical exponents of emo rock, but their fifth album is pure unadulterated Urie. “It’s a beginning to a new era,” says the manic showman, “and an homage to how it all began. This album is me.” Embracing this creative control with a eclectic mix of styles, Urie recorded all the instruments and drew inspiration for the finger-snapping title track from an unlikely source. Channeling Ol’ Blue Eyes, the multi-instrumentalist certainly hits the big Sinatra notes over the top of some swinging horns, before the high tempo of lead single Emperor’s New Clothes finds Urie drawing operatic influences from bombastic rock behemoths Queen.
A War Against You
Century Media Records
Nearly a decade on from their previous album, A War Against You is the sixth release from the melodic hardcore band from Orange County, California, and from the adrenaline-pumped opener Begin Again, Ignite sound as impassioned as ever. Effortlessly blending hardcore and pop punk, Ignite’s main weapons are their energy and attitude, and on the back of the thrashing guitars, frontman Zoil Teglas’ vocals soar freely. Known for their politically and socially conscious songwriting, the rallying cry of lead single Nothing Can Stop Me, written about a close friend battling cancer, also lends the music a more personal angle. With the thrashing hooks of You Lie, and the thunderous This is a War, the barrage of crushing riffs hardly let up for a second across the 13 tracks. Much like their previous recordings, A Place Called Home and 2006’s Our Darkest Days, the album closes with a hidden track sung in Teglas’ native Hungarian tongue, but rather than a traditional folk song, this time it’s a hard-hitting climax to round off an album of raging riffing.
The Revenant: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Following a reportedly hellish film shoot amid the harsh snowy landscapes of northern Canada and Argentina, director Alejandro Inarritu’s haunting new thriller The Revenant required an equally chilling soundtrack to accompany it. Famed Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and German musician Carsten Nicolai (working under his stage name Alva Noto), provide the 23-track score to the bleak Western, with additional music from Bryce Dessner, guitarist of the Brooklyn-based indie band The National. Sakamoto and Nicolai, who have previously collaborated together on numerous projects, create a bleak ambient soundscape, the emotional sweeping score emulating the same desperate and draining journey of the film lead character Hugh Glass (a bruised and bearded Leo DiCaprio). As much as the visceral and breathtaking film is a far from popcorn-scoffing thrill ride, the taut mediative drones of harrowing doom are also far from light listening. With a lack of melody the waves of strings and keys carry a powerful emotional weight and much like the film offer very few cracks of light amid the intense beautiful darkness.
After dabbling in an array of experimental electronic projects since the 1990s, British songwriter and indie pioneer Pete Astor, previously of ’80s bands The Loft and The Weather Prophets, makes a return to his jangly lo-fi roots with his new solo album, Spilt Milk. Joined by James Hoare from Ultimate Painting, who acts as the producer and a one-man backing band (playing bass, guitar, keyboards and drums) Astor recently stated “I’m back to being myself, bringing together sounds that I’ve used over time, to make a record that sounds more like me than me”. From the opening gentle groove of Really Something, there’s a relaxed air of familiarity as Astor deadpans, “You make me hungry, you make me greedy. You’re really something, uh oh oh, that’s just the way it is”, sounding right at home in his comfort zone. Recorded at Hoare’s home studio, Astor’s hook-filled melodies and insistent dry wit (“When I get home, I know she’ll understand, she’s my best friend, she’s my right hand”) exude a warm worldly charm.