La Dispute Credit: Jon Stars

A little more than 18 miles separate Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Lowell, a small manufacturing town to its east. Fulton Street is a patch of state highway M-21 that connects the two, and Jordan Dreyer, front man of celebrated Grand Rapids posthardcore band La Dispute, frequently traveled along it to visit his partner outside Lowell. His trips gave him plenty of opportunities to consider his surroundings. On “Fulton Street I,” which properly opens La Dispute’s recent fourth album and Epitaph debut, Panorama, Dreyer quietly contemplates the 1997 discovery of a woman’s skeleton along Fulton smack-dab between Lowell and Grand Rapids. More than 20 years later, the deceased’s identity remains unknown, and as Dreyer spikes the increasingly anxious song with incensed but empathetic howls, he brings depth and poignancy to the questions surrounding the case that linger to this day. This sort of approach is par for the course for La Dispute, whose sprawling albums build a self-contained world with its own center of gravity from mighty, massive songs whose fragility and vulnerability belie their bulk. On Panorama, La Dispute continue as they have since 2004—showing that even a familiar path can yield profound insights when explored with an engaged mind.   v