With La Dispute’s new album Panorama primed for release on 22nd March this year, it’s rightly apt for a review of their past releases to be bundled together by someone who’s never written a review before. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to cover each of their albums on the leadup to Panorma’s release.
La Dispute have a unique energy. Each of their three albums have their own singular focus and narrative within a continuing storyline that has evolved throughout the years. In a general sense, Jordan Dreyer as main lyricist and vocalist has the innate ability to create empathy within the listeners, almost as deeply as he feels himself. The different albums vary in focus from tales of personal experience to retellings of other stories and fabrications that Jordan has engineered. His experiences and pure passion is truly passed onto the listener through the lyrics and their delivery. They have a capacity to make one feel emotions for situations never experienced, from the breakdown of a long-term relationship and having to sort through the remnants of shared objects left within your home; to being a mother losing your son to cancer and finding god through it; to the view of a shooter after accidently killing a child, and a variety of other narratives. The three main albums are complete works of art on their own, and when listened together make for an entirely enhanced experience that cements ones place in reality.
The latest album, Panorama, has had 3 singles released thus far, and focuses on the bands home town of Grands Rapids, Northern Michigan, and the decay and subsequent invasion of nature growing in the town seen through various drives. The first single released, ‘Fulton Street I’, takes place on a drive between this town and his partners’ town, reflecting on the various scenes of death and decay they pass on this drive. La Dispute have clearly taken a different direction with this album, creating a much more physical impact within their music videos – the animated video for ‘Fulton Street I’ is beautiful, static, and elegantly designed and displayed by animator Sarah Schmidt. As a band, La Dispute haven’t ever really focused on creating videos for their songs, so this development of focus is very interesting in their evolving means of displaying the meanings of their lyrics. This song has periods shifting between quiet and sombre to loud and intense as Jordan questions himself and his significance in his own relationship, whether he can be “half of what [she]need[s]?”. Once they pass more and more scenes of destruction and horror the song becomes harsher with Jordan’s crys in need to become everything his partner requires.
The second single, ‘Footsteps at the Pond’, concerns Jordan reflecting on his decaying relationship, and how his love became like a “battered dog” in his constant attempts to keep it together. He realises that this constant battle was fruitless, these differences were too strong to overcome, and it wasn’t until she cut contact and let him bleed out his passion that he realised all these issues weren’t possible to change. This song’s pacing is fast and erratic with the tone constantly changing as if to reflect Jordan’s frustration and pain at his own attempts to alter the situation when he should have realised his efforts were wasted. The music video takes a different artistic tone, with 3D animation standing out in neon light – the video revolves around the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, using Theseus’ exploration of the labyrinth as a means to represent Jordan’s efforts to work through the maze of the issues in his relationship. The end of the video contrasts the end of the song, as while the relationship broke apart in the song and each party managed to become better without each other, the music video shows Theseus guiding the Minotaur out of his prison and seeing the open expanse of the world.
‘Rhodonite and Grief’ is the third single, and by contrast to the other two it doesn’t have a music video to accompany it. The song contains a calming guitar tone and a powerful trumpet that stands out through the song to contrast the harsh lyrical content of Jordan trying to comfort his suicidal partner. The treatment his partner is going through takes months and Jordan drives around to find gifts to try to heal her, resorting to spiritual essences and crystals in any attempt to help, but as is a common theme in many of their songs – his efforts are fruitless.
These singles seem to revolve much around the same themes La Dispute have played with throughout the years, that of grief, relationship decline, and the decay of their hometown. But this album brings a refreshing and experimental tone. The only criticism to be said about the singles released so far is the questionable mixing: La Dispute are a band that thrive on their ability to write powerful and compelling lyrics and tales, but within these three singles the lyrics can be quite hard to hear at times, the instruments blaring over them. For most of their previous tracks I haven’t had to look up the lyrics because you can hear them so clearly and follow them seamlessly, but I’ve relied on lyric sites for these songs. I’m hoping the other songs don’t follow this same pattern, but nonetheless Panorama is still highly anticipated, and I hope people listen to the full album once it is released on 22nd March and listen through their past albums to gain an impression of their evolution through the years that have brought them to this point.
Panorama is out March 22nd via Epitaph Records.