Pop-punk and an errant exclamation point are nothing but distant memories 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 had switched the band's Fall Out Boy CD collection with copies of Sgt. Pepper and ELO's Greatest Hits. The 15 songs here are long on ambition and instrumentation, with strings, brass and lush piano dotting each and every one. But the 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"; the smoky garage strut "She's a Handsome Woman."
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Even though Pretty. Odd can be too busy for its own good at times—sounds and instruments are crammed into every open space in the mix—it still stands as quite the achievement for a group of erstwhile pop-punks' sophomore effort.