Review: La Dispute’s ‘Panorama’ aching dialogue on grief

Experimental hardcore band out of Michigan release sixth full length

‘Panorama’ explores themes of guilt, loss and grief.

La Dispute has made a place for themselves in the Grand Rapids, Michigan scene with their experimental hardcore, blending elements of spoken word, punk and hardcore.

March 22 marked the release of their sixth full-length album, “Panorama,” a glistening, sharp-sided look at loss and grief.


The first single released, “Fulton Street I” is still my favorite from an all-around great album.

The dynamics at play in this song are breathtaking: starting out so soft I had to double check that my Spotify was working properly, before building to an aching scream.

Simple strumming is joined by a shaky voice as it recalls the discovery of human remains under some leaves after the spring thaw.

As the song progresses, the narrator becomes anxious, and his voice becomes loud and urgent. The song morphs into a panic attack as the narrator contemplates how he would deal with the paralyzing grief of losing someone.

The chorus cries, “Never needed to live and suffer through the pain/ All the tyrannies of grief, if I ever do/ Will I even have the strength to do anything? / Could I go and leave flowers by the street?”

The flowers refer to the monuments one can see along the roadside to mark where someone died.


Multiple songs on the album speak of minerals and semi-precious stones that are prized by some for their perceived positive effects.

Black tourmaline is mentioned in this track. This mineral is seen as a strong protector and remover of negative energy.

The track sees the narrator reminiscing about a trip they took with their significant other to Northern Michigan where they camped by the water.

Bass forward, this track is overlaid with a thin mist of synthesizer and accented with the metallic staccato of the triangle.

Like the storyline of “FULTON STREET I,” “IN NORTHERN MICHIGAN” takes a left turn halfway through.

Suddenly, the song is about the narrator’s fear of losing his loved one as he watches them wade into the lake. At first he is paralyzed, only able to helplessly watch. The song ends with the narrator breaking free of his fear and running into the water after them.


Immediately following “IN NORTHERN MICHIGAN,” “VIEW FROM OUR BEDROOM WINDOW” flips the script, starting out the dim realities before introducing the rosy daydreams.

The instrumentation is more aggressive from the get-go than most of the other tracks, but this is far from a bad thing. Bass and mid-tom heavy drums and tambourine comprise the percussion, while melodic guitar layers above a simple rhythm guitar.

All storms end, and perhaps their presence makes their absence appreciated more deeply.

“I gripped the wheel tight when the storm burst, and clouds split suddenly open to the sky/ All the colors that were in us, dumbstruck with love and terror and both.”


The second to last song of the album, “THERE YOU ARE (HIDING PLACE)” is the only track to have what could be more traditionally considered singing with the repeated phrase, “Shuffling off to sleep.”

Snare heavy percussion is contrasted by the predominance of bass riffs as duel chorus guitars play a modified “call and answer” style.

The lyrics speak of wanting to prove themselves to a loved one: “And in the summer, we’ll get a new home/ I’ll get a new start, I’ll get to be a new better me now, a new better me/ I won’t be guilty, I won’t be sorry, I won’t feel angry every day.”

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