Music Reviews: The Latest From Panic! At The Disco, Anderson .Paak and Wray

Plus, get reviews of albums from Anderson .Paak and Wray.

ByABC News
January 20, 2016, 6:00 AM
Kenneth Harris and Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco perform during Live 105's BFD at Shoreline Amphitheatre, June 6, 2015, in Mountain View, Calif.
Kenneth Harris and Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco perform during Live 105's BFD at Shoreline Amphitheatre, June 6, 2015, in Mountain View, Calif.
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

— -- intro: I will be the first to admit that this year is not getting off to a good start. Not only is the January release schedule slow but in the last two weeks we have lost David Bowie, the EaglesGlenn Frey and Mott The Hoople’s Dale Griffin. It has also been a time of sadness in the music world. Bowie at least received his first #1 album on the U.S. Billboard chart with last week’s “Blackstar.” Although, it is kind of shocking that this hadn’t happened before and one wishes that this would have happened under better circumstances.

Still, the beginning of 2016 marches on. We have reviews of the latest from theatrical pop-rockers Panic! At The Disco as well as hip-hop artist/R&B singer Anderson .Paak and shoegaze/dream-pop act Wray. It may be a small load this week, but there are still records worth hearing.

quicklist: 1title: Panic! At The Disco’s “Death Of A Bachelor” ***text: If you aren’t down with the Panic! At The Disco formula by now, the act’s first album in three years probably won’t change your mind. Faux-“punk” influences get mixed with dramatic pop and electronic elements to create a theatrical sonic spectacle. In other words, they still come off as a slightly more successful answer to Fall Out Boy. Actually, considering Panic! At The Disco as still a band is a bit of a misnomer. Only leader Brendon Urie remains, thus making this a solo album under his band’s name. Knowing that makes this album a bit more impressive since the sound of the set doesn’t come off as stripped down in the least. If Urie does gain some new fans here, it is because he really proves that he can do this on his own.

Urie samples the famous riff of the B-52’s “Rock Lobster” on “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” and puts on his smoothest lounge-singer impression on the album’s title-track. This can be a pretty slick pop record, but it does impress in unexpected ways. Even if a song like “Crazy=Genius” sounds like a retread of the mini-swing-boom of the nineties mixed with some rock fire. The line, “You’re just like Mike Love but you’ll never be Brian Wilson” gives an indication that Urie knows his place in music history.

This album won’t change the world but it actually provides a somewhat decent listen. It’s among the least polarizing work Urie has ever made. “LA Devotee” brings to mind The Faint while “Golden Days” sounds like a pop cousin of We Are Scientists’ 2005 debut, “With Love & Squalor.”

“The Good The Bad & The Dirty” is evidence that this is at its core a pop record with guitars. It is barely rock but it has some surprising swagger.

With “The Death Of A Bachelor,” Brendon Urie takes a strong step into the future. This album will still earn some rightful criticism from its detractors. There are a few too many “whoa-oh-oh,” forced-anthemic breaks put on for the benefit of pop radio, but there’s still a spark worth investigating. Urie is still aiming for pop gold in a formulaic way but there are hints that a brighter, more inventive future may lie ahead.

Focus Tracks:

“Impossible Year” This show-stopping ballad is the album’s closer and it shows that when Urie turns down the pop bombast he can really find something interesting and compelling. Away from the party tracks and the forced elements, he is slowly developing into a maturing musical force. This track is for instance worlds away from “Victorious,” the somewhat grating opening track.