Are you the kind of person who cringes at someone labeling bands like Panic at the Disco and My Chemical Romance as emo? Do you connect that word to the roots of the genre with bands like Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate? Well then “The World Is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid To Die” may be just right for you. Recently signed to Topshelf Records, this six piece bands debut album “Whenever, If Ever” is being labeled as a seminal member of a new wave of emo bands. Now, there are some parts of classic emo music that I love, and there are some parts that I can not stand. How does this band line up? I guess you will just have to keep reading to find out.
I love this bands choice of instrumentation. They keep the staples of the genre (delicate guitar arpeggios, fast strummed chords, bass and drums) but they also have extensive use of cello, trumpets, and synths that add so much to their sound. The beautiful cello on the first track was nice, but it really impressed me when it returned on the second song, and then continued to show itself throughout the album. These added instruments feel cohesive with the music, unlike many bands who try to include instruments like this, only to have them sound like a production choice, instead of an active part of the music. I also love the use of piano on the song “Picture Of a Tree That Doesnt Look Okay” and going into “You Will Never Go To Space”. Again it comes across as belonging in the ensemble, and not some kind of weird guest sound added afterwards by a producer. The vocals are obviously emotional. When singing, there are those moments of emotional pitch variance that can detract from the sound, but not on this album at all. There is yelling, but its refined and goes exactly where it should. They did a good job of making the vocals composed enough to not detract from the music, yet still passionate enough to capture the emotion that belongs in this genre. At times it reminds me of a more subdued, less crazy Isaac Brock. The music, in turn, also brings me back to the earlier days of Modest Mouse, with the emotional builds of Sunny Day Real Estate, and maybe a bit of even Say Anything (at least in the faster parts).
The thing that really sticks with this album is its ability to be cohesive as an album, yet not get boring or drag on. Many emo bands, at least for me, tend to get repetitive and dull by the end of the album. Maybe its just me, but the chords and whined/yelled vocals start to meld together, and you just get lost. But Whenever, If Ever keeps my attention going the whole way through. Perhaps its their choice of instrumentation working for them again, or maybe its the vast array of compositional forms, varying from slow builds to short fast songs to more subdued songwriting, similar to older Death Cab For Cutie. Either way, the album does a good job of making you want to keep listening to it. It also has a wonderful cohesive nature to it. The album flows so well. There are very few breaks in between songs and every song gives off an insistence to its place on the album.
Highlights on this album include the third and fourth songs, mentioned earlier which are so connected, you don’t realize it changed songs. The gang vocals come in at the right times, and the piano provides a nice, ongoing bass for the other instruments to pull riffs over as this collection of songs builds up and down. Another star of the album is the second to last track “Low Light Assembly” one of the more quiet songs on the album, its quiet beauty is a nice change from other songs that start quiet, but end up inevitably building. The occasional feedback builds suggest a louder break, but it never comes and it keeps you waiting until the final, seven minute song comes in. “Getting Sodas”, the final song on the album is another highlight, which includes a near 4 minute post-rock style build at the end, that builds, but never breaks out, only reaches its peak and ends, which I feel works so well. Anyone can build and then go crazy at the top, but it takes something special to hit that point, and come right down, and yet still leave you, the listener satisfied.
This album is quickly becoming one of my favorite new discoveries of this year, and may end up on my top list for 2013. It has all the best qualities of indie and emo music from the 90s, with its own unique instrumentation and sound. My only complaint: It is too short. 35 minutes is just not quite long enough for an album, and I feel like they could have easily added some more material without padding the album. That being said, nothing on this album does not belong, and the flow of the album is so perfect, perhaps I should just be happy with 35 minutes of incredible music.