by Vasilis, contributing writer
Imagine a peaceful lake on a serene summer afternoon: The birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, the ducks are swimming, the flowers are blooming, creating a picture perfect image. All of a sudden, a giant rock comes crashing into the lake, throwing everything off and disturbing the picturesque nature. That is the effect Whenever, If Ever, the debut album from emo revival band The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die (who I will now refer to as The World Is) has on its audience. It’s a blaring attack on our senses, with quiet atmospheric intros escalating into loud, cathartic chorusesthat create a lasting impression in the listener’s mind, be it on first listen or days later. The sound is reminiscent of emo legends like American Football and Cap’ N Jazz yet still feels fresh and new.
Seeing The World Is perform live is one of the strangest setups you will ever experience. The Connecticut-based band’s line-up features six steady members along with a trumpeter, a cellist, multiple synth players, and dueling vocals, all of which adds to their unfettered sound. The album kicks off with the powerful instrumental opener “blank #9”, which builds with a pristine arrangement of strings surrounding the single, clean guitar. The “second wave” emo sound emerges in “Heartbeat in The Brain”, with twinkling guitars and pulsing drums. The band addresses leaving a familiar hometown; “Whenever you find home, if everyone belongs there, feeling our bodies breaking down, just trying to find a way out to a city so big that it is bound to keep your secrets.” The vocals are shrill and uncomfortable, which fits the track’s angst-riddled mood but may take some getting used to for new listeners. The chorus features those same whiney vocals backing up harsher screams that builds in a wild, emotional cacophony.
Where this album succeeds best are the breathy, atmospheric tones that suck the audience in. While “Fightboat” is a solid, short punchy track with mathy elements, more distorted guitars, and a well-utilized trumpet in the intro, it’s the fourth track, “Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay,” that sees the group realize its full potential. The slowed pace allows the story the lyrics are painting room to breathe and the listener time to appreciate it. The guitars and drums and methodical but never feel stale and when the rumbling drums come in and the song accelerates, it packs that much more of a punch. The lyrics lament, “We watch the fallen leaves turn to frozen trees, it’s been another year. Where do the echoes from the echoes go? Where does the water flow when it leaves our homes. I’ve been searching for this, something that I can run away with. It’s a life changing decision. Should I leave or try to beat this?” Once the song picks up, the lyrics really hit that emotional sweet spot. “You Will Never Go To Space” carries on where the previous track ended, opening on a moody intro that builds to a wild, synth-fueled closing before stopping so abruptly the listener barely has time to adjust before the next track kicks in.
The album offers no apologies for its crassness and little middle ground in terms of its style and format. Most tracks are either shorter than 2:30 or longer than 4:00, but the group’s diversity and control over their unique sound helps it succeed. “The Layers of Skin We Drag Around” clocks in at only 1:33 which fits the song’s punk-fueled bass lines and crunchy distorted guitars. The lyrics address the fear of growing older and losing youth, as the singer howls “We’re still scared but we’re also patient. I am still a mess. We connect in separate places.” The unease grows in “Ultimate Steve”, another slow track that builds into an agonizing avalanche while the lyrics worry, “The world will destroy me. Our voices will flood rivers and valleys. The world will destroy me. I am the mountains crumbling.”
The acoustic guitar heavy “Gig Life” and the choir-like vocals and twinkling piano in “Low Life Assembly” mount a memorable 1-2 punch leading into one of the better album closers of the year, the incredible “Getting Sodas”, which clocks in at seven minutes. The song takes every element the group has utilized throughout the first nine songs, from the powerful atmospheric overtones, the relatable, heart-wrenching lyrics, the twinkling guitars, the steady drumming, and the changing tempos and combines it into one stellar song. The song represents the poignant release the band has been building to from the album’s first note, combining the unease and uncertainty of life into a beautiful, poetic narrative that provides the listener closure; “We are ghosts in your homes. We travel under the floor, and when our voices fail us we will find new ways to sing. When our bodies fail we’ll find joy in the peace that it brings. The world is a beautiful place but we have to make it that way. Whenever you find home we’ll make it more than just a shelter. And if everyone belongs there it will hold us all together. If you’re afraid to die, then so am I.”
The music industry is a vast, thriving entity that is bustling with bands looking to make a name for themselves. In that world exists The World Is, a group that’s just looking to dive into this giant ecosystem and make a splash. With any luck, their strange personality and unique style will be just the thing that gets people to take notice. While perfect beauty is nice, it’s the chaos and unease that often creates the most lasting memory, and Whenever, If Ever is nothing if not brilliantly tumultuous, heavy and raw. It’s these qualities that make The World Is a sight to behold.