“We’re so sorry we’ve been gone/We were busy writing songs/For you!” Put a chorus yelp on that last word and you have the introduction to Panic at the Disco’s sophomore album, Pretty. Odd. Well, not that odd: At a time when the indie world is furiously reviving ‘60s pop (Panda Bear, Grizzly Bear), here’s a mainstream act trying to stay ahead of the game. In this way, you might say the guys in Panic at the Disco are the ultimate pop chameleons: They still sound generic, but they’ve dropped the exclamation point and emo act in favor of a newer, hotter image. Recorded between Las Vegas and London’s Abbey Road Studios, Pretty. Odd. pays tribute to the Beach Boys through and through, from its swooning orchestrations and natural imagery to the theatrical flourish that carries over to the album art of painted flowers and butterflies. It would be easy to dismiss Panic’s new styling as an affectation, but the delivery is so blithe that it’s hard to be cynical about it. “She said she won the world at a carnival/But she could never win me/‘Cause she couldn’t never catch me,” lead singer Brendon Urie sings on “She Had the World” with a simple playfulness that’s light years ahead of the clipped vocal ADD of “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” and the attention to the album’s many background details (horns, strings, claps) is meaty and meticulous. Every song on Pretty. Odd. is played and sung with the exuberant delivery of Rent on Broadway. But when the hooks are this good, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
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