There’s a lot of tension behind the swinging opening steps of Mary Broadcast’s title track in the new record Panic, and it’s not going to waste. With seemingly every move the percussion makes, Broadcast’s words grow a little larger in the mix, giving into a chorus just past the :45 mark that feels both refreshing and overwhelmingly colorful when we’re anticipating it the least. The story of Panic is one that comes together without any prerequisites or lyrical subtext – once you’re strapped in with this singer/songwriter, she’s in charge, and her foray into progressive pop songcraft is both startlingly adept and incredibly pointed when it needs to be the most. Immersive might not do it justice; honestly, this is an EP that stands on its own this February.
“Zone 4” follows the title track with an almost gothic hue to its signature harmony, but even when its fleeting melodic discord turns into surreal banter in the chorus, the song constantly feels like one of the most personal and expressive of any in the tracklist. “Bastille” is much more carefree and celebratory, as a classic pop/rock love song should be, but it doesn’t remove itself from the darker tone of the other material on this record at all. Instead of playing with our emotions in the traditional sense, this is an EP that wants to mirror the inconvenience of heartache and self-discovery, penetrating the typical emotional background of someone reaching their twenties with a level of precision I can only deem surgical.
“Sing It” is the lone alternative rock anthem in the fold, but it sticks in your head on the spot thanks to its circular hook, which is by far the catchiest on the record. It’s the yang to the yin that is “Bastille,” but it doesn’t kill all of the optimism in the room just yet – there’s enough hanging around in the air for “Bazar,” leaving us to ponder the depth of the narrative this song has in comparison to the two much poppier tracks preceding it. To be frank, I had to go through Panic a couple of times before I could decide just how much of it was personal versus observational, and by the time I sat down to write this review, I had come to the conclusion that it’s equal parts of both.
The ghostly “Aver” brings us full circle and finishes Panic with ethereal vocal harmonies that reach towards the horizon with near-angelic presence, and despite its longer running time, I think it’s probably the most complete and cohesive composition of the latter half of the record. Mary Broadcast was a name I was only somewhat familiar with ahead of hearing her last LP, but I think this latest release is enough to make me a legit fan of her aesthetics. She’s got soul that goes on for miles in this performance, and not once is it held in bondage by a desire to meet the radio standard. That’s commendable, but more importantly, it’s essential to evolving this songwriter’s incredible style.