The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Harmlessness Review

Posted: by Riley

From the outside looking in, it might seem a little ridiculous that one of my favorite bands is a new emo band called The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. If the word “emo” doesn’t deter the casual listener, the long, dramatic name will. With all of this working against them, my skeptical friends – largely unfamiliar with ‘emo’ as it stands – usually respond with something along the lines of “this is much better than I expected” upon hearing the band’s music. Even hip indie publications who wouldn’t dare utter the word “emo” are covering TWIABP, resolving instead to calling them a “maximalist indie band” or “post-rock collective;” but it doesn’t really matter what you call them. And even if they sell forks with their name on the internet, they’re an important band. I believed that the first time I heard their stunning debut Whenever, If Ever, and each release since has reinforced that belief. But, man, if you don’t believe it after Harmlessness, I don’t know what to tell ya. 

The Connecticut however-many-piece whatever-genre band’s sophomore LP is the work of a passionate collective of musicians who find solace in their shared hardships. The members’ encounters with anxiety and depression are covered in depth throughout the record, but rather than bask in their own despair or try to pull humor from their experiences, the band renders moments of empathy and joy. Musically, Harmlessness is a collection of soaring epics, helmed by a rotating cast of vocalists, musicians, and lyricists. The songs are not all that different from what we heard on Whenever, If Ever, but they are even more expansive and complex here, venturing into indie-rock and pop territory on songs like ‘The Word Lisa’ and the Modest Mouse-channeling ‘Wendover.’ But whatever it is, their jubilant synths, towering guitars, and crushing percussion combine to create moving pieces of music on every single track.

On one of Harmlessness’ (and 2015’s) strongest offerings ‘I Can Be Afraid of Anything,’ the band addresses the importance of accepting help. David F. Bello and company are urgent and joyful as they project the quotable “I really did dig my own hole, and I’m climbing out.” Upon release of the single, Bello had this to say “Once you figure out how long you’ve gone and how much you’ve missed, you’ll wonder what took so long to seek help. But, it’s only now that you have that motivation; now that you’re doing better. There’s nothing easy about this.” This message is key in its tone and its content. Bello directly addresses listeners with genuine concern for their well-being in the wake of his own suffering. 

On ‘The Word Lisa,’ a perfect two-minute pop song, the band repurposes a line from last year’s Between Bodies, gleefully singing “when we get home we won’t be empty, we found a purpose in each other.” In a sense, this was a life-or-death thing for TWIABP, and now they’re returning the favor – sharing the joy that they’ve found in sharing their sadness. The theme is perpetuated throughout. ‘Haircuts for Everybody’s’ cinematic build culminates in the affecting “change your life, please change your life, change my life, please change my life.” On the beautiful, banjo-tinged ‘Mental Health,’ the band proposes the poetic “when in real doubt, look around you and stop crying.” Harmlessness’ lyrics are inclusive and heartfelt, it roots for its listeners the way they needed someone to in their darkest times. Listening the The World is A Beautiful Place is a mutually beneficial relationship, and what you bring to the record will undoubtedly affect what you get out of it. 

I could talk about this record for days and days, but reviewing it is very difficult; Harmlessness is the most personally involved listen of the year, and it’s brilliance is rooted in the listener. So if you aren’t already, I hope this gets you past the long name and the “emo” tag – past the absurd merch and the sheer amount of members. Because once you do, you’ll be rewarded with a truly epic experience in one of the best albums of the year. 

Score: 9.3/10

Essentials: ‘I Can Be Afraid Of Anything,’ ‘Mental Health,’ ‘You Can’t Live There Forever,’ ‘Haircuts For Everybody’

FFO: Modest Mouse, Sigur Ros, Broken Social Scene, Explosions in The Sky