By Jason Herring, October 6 2015 —
The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die’s (TWiaBP) debut album was my favourite record of 2013. The nine-piece Connecticut emo band perfectly captured everything I love about the genre, from twinkly guitars to impassioned, life-affirming vocals.
The band has now signed with iconic punk label Epitaph to release their sophomore full-length album, Harmlessness. The release is the band’s most ambitious yet, as they explore familiar themes of youthful exploration and angst in long, fleshed-out songs.
Much of TWiaBP’s music is defined by fervent vocals sung in unison. And these aren’t pretty Fleet Foxes-esque harmonies — the band’s vocals are messy and overwrought, only succeeding because of the sheer amount of passion they’re sung with.
One of the best tracks on the record is album opener “You Can’t Live There Forever,” which begins with only muted acoustic guitar and quiet vocals before introducing strings and layers of voices. The band’s move to a bigger label is evident in the crisper production. “We are as harmless as the thoughts in our head,” they chant as the tracks reaches its emotional climax.
Another highlight is “January 10th, 2014.” The lyrics tell the true story of a Mexican woman who shot and killed several bus drivers who allegedly assaulted female passengers. Frontman David Bello and keyboardist Katie Shanholtzer trade conversational lines detailing the story before exploding into the song’s coda, where they pledge to “make evil afraid of evil’s shadow.”
TWiaBP also ventures into post-rock in between their usual emo sound. The slowly building crescendos fit perfectly with the band’s sound and make the song’s climaxes more uplifting than they already were.
Harmlessness closes out with the cathartic “Mount Hum,” an eight-minute track that’s more instrumentally dynamic and lyrically insightful than most bands manage over an entire album. The song balances bleak existentialism and unwavering hope to produce what is easily one of the best songs of the year.
Don’t let their awful band name scare you off — TWiaBP are an endlessly inventive group that are redefining the emo genre, and Harmlessness is their finest work yet.