Pop-punk — and an errant exclamation point — is nothing but a distant memory on Panic at the Disco's second album. The Las Vegas quartet makes a bold and brilliant stab at baroque pop on Pretty. Odd — as if somebody switched its Fall Out Boy CDs with copies of Sgt. Pepper and E.L.O.'s Greatest Hits. The 15 songs here are long on ambition and instrumentation, with strings, brass, and lush piano dotting each and every one. Tempos still pulse with bouncy melancholia, and it's all upbeat, innocent, and cute.
Pretty. Odd's rainbow of sounds is especially hard to resist in the catchy single "Nine in the Afternoon" and the galloping horn-fueled rave-up "Pas De Cheval." Still, the best moments are the economical ones: the bluegrass-hued ballad "Folkin' Around," the jazzy blues-folk of "I Have Friends in Holy Spaces," and the smoky garage strut "She's a Handsome Woman." Even though Pretty. Odd can be too busy for its own good at times — sounds and instruments are crammed into every open space — it's quite an achievement for a group of erstwhile pop-punks.
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