I made the decision early on in my time as a music critic type to never hide my fandom. It was simple: I didn’t start writing about music to gain access or influence – I did it because I like music and I like writing. If I liked a band, singer, group, or act, I was upfront with that affection. I continue to find it silly that some music writers make some sort of claim or effort at objectivity. Music is an art form, so talking about it is inherently subjective. And since objectivity is a philosophical and metaphysical pipe dream any way, why fake it? If you like something, talk about it – the readers, your editor, and the band will most likely appreciate it.
Why is that intro important? Because when I talk about the music of The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die (TWIABP), I immediately bring up about how the band transports me back to the turn of the millennium, specifically all the music I listened to as a frustrated kid right out of college. But instead of me drowning in nostalgia, I’m swept into the present by the group’s urgency and ability to transform those familiar musical ideas into something new, fresh, and engaging. I can proudly blare it from the speakers of my Subaru with my kid in the backseat without any lament for bygone days.
And Harmlessness, the exultant new record on Epitaph from this sprawling Connecticut outfit, combines the emo-meets-post-rock of 2013’s Whenever, If Ever with swathes of folk and chamber pop sensibilities to fantastic ends. Big guitar riffs remain the name of the game, especially when coupled with strong drumming, and rippling bass runs. But this time around, Rentals-esque synth patterns, string sections, and background harmony vocals provide greater texture and in greater amounts than ever before.
Any hint of over-reliance upon quite-loud-quiet-loud sensibilities you might have detected in past TWIABP projects has been cast aside for more inventive arrangements. Instead, standout cuts like “January 10th, 2014,” “Wendover,” “We Need More Skulls,” and “I Can Be Afraid of Anything” grace our ears with crisp syncopation, good breakdowns, and taut transitions. The entire effect is akin to a group of friends commiserating over struggles and road bumps while looking for helpful answers, instead of wallowing in their collective misery.
Thus, like all good emo, hope, and angst stand arm-in-arm throughout Harmlessness, but they do so in a manner that rejects manic mood swings for a more nuanced and mature approach. After hearing the band several times in 2013 and 2014, I’m really excited to hear how this new album transitions to the live environment during the last few months of 2015 and into 2016. I need more of The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die in my life, and I hope this article from a fan masquerading as a critic has brought you to a similar conclusion.
Despite all of the cliches you might have heard about the place, Adam P. Newton actually enjoys living in Texas – most of the time. He currently creates and curates content for a marketing agency, and in his limited free time, he writes a memoir about his journey through music called “Explaining Grownup Music to Kids.”