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Rain on the Humming Wire *

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  • Bravely taking a four-year hiatus following their ARIA Award-winning breakthrough Cruel Guards, Australian quintet the Panics return with their fourth studio album, Rain on the Humming Wire, and a bolder, more confident sound that proves the time away hasn't hampered their ability to create an indie rock anthem or two. Written in Manchester and recorded in Woodstock with producer John O'Mahony (Alberta Cross, Metric), its 11 tracks show traces of their globetrotting past, from the grandiose reverb-soaked Americana of "One Way Street," to the lilting orchestral pop of "Not Quite a Home" (written while overlooking the Thames during a particularly strong bout of homesickness), to the Fleetwood Mac-esque West Coast soft rock of "Creatures," all of which reveal that frontman Jae Laffer's husky Dylan-esque vocals remain as potent as ever. But any concerns that the Panics have forgotten their roots will be allayed immediately, thanks to opening track "Majesty," a pro-Republican take on the role of the monarchy that features a cinematic fusion of timpani drums, pounding piano chords, and stirring strings; the honky tonk barroom blues of "Endless Road," which sounds like it should come free with a can of Castlemaine XXXX; and the explosive Midnight Oil-esque Aussie rock of "Walk That Mile Alone." The album's prevalent downbeat nature suggests the band would be wise to avoid the isolated surroundings of its inception for album number five, as listeners may need something of a pick-me-up by the time the plodding Gallic-tinged "How Long" and subdued jangly indie pop of "Everything Is Quiet" draw to a close. But overall, Rain on the Humming Wire is the sound of a band whose members are no longer panicking but are confidently looking forward to swapping theaters for stadiums. ~ Jon O'Brien
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