La Dispute’s ‘Panorama‘ lands March 22nd, 2019, & new dual-single ‘Rose Quartz’ / ‘Fulton Street I’ is one hell of a ride.
The last time we had a new album from La Dispute was 2014’s ‘Rooms Of The House‘; a powerful concept record framed around each room of a house being represented by a certain song, detailing the memories and experiences held within each room/song. It’s a fucking great release, and you should listen to it if you haven’t yet. Though after five years without a follow-up album, the Michigan group are now ready to offer new music – ‘Panorama‘, primed to be the most autobiographical La Dispute record yet. The band’s debut for Epitaph Records, their upcoming LP will arrive March 22nd, 2019, and we already have an incredible first taste of it with the dual single of ‘Rose Quartz‘ and ‘Fulton Street I‘, the first two opening songs of this latest effort.
The floating ‘Rose Quartz‘ starts by moving through some slow-building ambience and lightly glazed synths, before the shift to ‘Fulton Street I‘ occurs right after the first minute mark. From here, atmospheric guitar chords ring out over the minimal intro as frontman Jordan Dreyer softly speaks of the grim sights and sounds seen while out on the road. Yet it’s not his bands touring travels that he’s discussing here. Rather, as their next record will be mainly centred around, ‘Panorama‘ supposedly details the drive that Dreyer and his partner would make from East Hills, Grand Rapids over to the city of Lowell, Michigan, (for us non-Americans, that’s approximately a 300 km drive in more or less three hours time); sharing the “stories” of death that the couple encountered along their ways. From a pond where a man sadly drowned whilst walking home one winter, multiple places where car accidents are now only remembered by forlorn flower wreaths, and even one place where a city worker discovered a Jane Doe body decomposed some years ago. These once-living characters and their tales, in classic La Dispute lyrical fashion a la 2011’s ‘Wildlife‘, are then used as devices for the song to then reflect Jordan’s own relationship with his partner and what he can hopefully offer her in their time together in the face of such bleak moments of mortality. (This idea gets taken even further by the line “If I hid rose quartz underneath the mattress, would it help your nights, when you’re struggling to sleep“, playing into the old myth that these little gems will bring better romance into your life when put under your bed at night).
Within the growing, mighty crescendo of ‘Fulton Street I‘, distant snare drum rolls and tambourine flourishes glide, well-placed yet sparse bass lines pull, quiet and spacious guitar figures twirl, and Jordan’s emotionally-charged, rising vocal dynamics punctuate this enthralling second half. The moment that hits me the hardest by far is this solemn lyric: “I’ve never put flowers by the street“. Because personally, I’ve never lost a friend in a car crash, and thus never had to place flowers on some side street in honour of a fallen friend who spent their final few horrifying seconds in a careening wreck of twisted metal. And that freaks me out a little bit, honestly. Yet like so many other La Dispute tracks, ‘Fulton Street I‘ is like a vice-grip of raw emotion, creating such a high palpable level that few others artists can conjure up.
Which is what these two songs really are when they’re put together: a dark musical journey for a late night drive. A gut-wrenching score for when comfortable silence has filled up the vehicle, and all there is to be heard is the vehicle’s low engine hum and the stereo sounds.
Speaking with NPR for the song’s release today, the La Dispute singer also poetically extrapolated upon this new track’s mood and theme, sharing that:
“Rose Quartz” is a bright white light, then the low hum of tires on a country highway; “Fulton Street I” is two heads in the car turning quietly at passing landmarks, plywood monuments with plastic flowers and the stories that populate the stretch of road between two places. Together, they’re the first two tracks on a record born from long drives like that, between a new and an old home, that takes a wide-angled shot of a city and just outside of it. How events there linger on in the memory of all those involved, carrying the characters off in thoughts of grief and healing to other planes and other histories. Everything on the record started with that image — and with the feeling of drifting off in thought toward different worlds — and with this piece, which was written largely in one setting after having scrapped nearly a full album’s worth of material.”
Directed and animated by Sarah Schmidt, the song’s trippy, third-eye-opening music video blooms with the soft blues and radiant reds of 1980s animation style. With these striking and metaphorical visuals, the song’s lengthy highway drive theme gets seen from the perspective of a lone deer; a poor animal whose fate is to forever end up as roadkill, it’s last living moments trapped within the piercing glow of orange beams from some fast-moving car. All of this culminates into what is a moving audio-visual trip.
Despite it being fresh, this amazing piece has instantly become one of my favourite La Dispute songs, standing tall right amongst the feral ‘New Storms For Older Lovers‘, the underrated ‘St.Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues‘ and the truly haunting ‘35‘. As potentially corny as it will sound, this new release is fuckin’ art, man. Experience ‘Rose Quartz / Fulton Street I‘ below:
Read my interview with La Dispute drummer Brad Vander Lugt over here – in which he hinted at what new material will be like – & be sure to catch the band at these incoming dates this month.