Veenstra – “People & The Woods”

(Photo Credit: bandcamp)

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “I’m Sorry, I’m Lost” “The Hollow Realm”

“People & The Woods” is the third album in a trilogy – you can find my review of the second album, “Six Months of Death,” here – and it largely feels like the ending to a progressing narrative. It does what any finale to a trilogy should do, it kicks it up a notch. The album, much like the two previous, is wickedly lo-fi. It was all written and recorded by Francois Veenstra, and it often has the tone of an ambitious solo project. The trilogy isn’t exactly a happy one, as this album deals with finding yourself suddenly alone. While maybe not as existential of a topic as before, it’s one that’s just as striking.

This album has more of a band feel to it, although it is still a solo act. There are full band instruments on more of the tracks than before. For a finale, Veenstra wanted to go for a more cohesive feel. The album has a great balance because of it, with shorter, more ambient pieces intersecting some more traditional tracks. And the heaviness of the album’s story gets transferred through the varying volumes. Each sound, be it guitars, vocals, bass, drums, all are elements of the story. They’re never working against each other, instead complementing each other and working to fill a story. He continues to show an ability to switch up an album before any certain idea gets too old, providing for a very satisfying listen. It’s interesting that the album has just as much of a dreamy feel, despite the added instruments. Even with the increase, the album feels more sparing, more distant than before, and it helps it to feel just as lonely as the character.

The only real criticism I can muster is a slight dissatisfaction with the final track, “Mirror Lake.” Veenstra’s longer songs have often been some of the bigger opuses of the albums, but the song is instrumental and softer. On a purely sonic level, I was a little disappointed in a more subdued track to end the trilogy. But even then, I understand it on a level dealing with the album’s dark themes. Having a lighter, more ambient finale is a little haunting when you take the tone into account. Otherwise, I think it’s another solid experimental, lo-fi album. It won’t appeal to everyone, but it’s very good for those that it will. It’s a great finale, full of existential dream-pop and lo-fi rock that’ll likely stick in your mind for a while.

The album is available here.

-By Andrew McNally

The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – “Whenever, If Ever”

Photo  Credit: Top Shelf Records

Photo Credit: Top Shelf Records

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay,” “You Will Never Go To Space,” “Ultimate Steve”

The band trying to claim their prize for current longest name have released their full-length debut on the glorious Top Shelf Records. The band – often abbreviated, or called “The World Is” for short – is a six-piece from Connecticut. They differ from Top Shelf’s normal bands, who fall under the umbrella term of ‘modern emo’ (here’s looking at you, Snowing). They are definitely a modern emo band, but one that is even more original than their label-mates. Their first EP’s, “Formlessness” and “Josh Is Dead,” were four and three tracks, respectively. But in those three tracks the band established themselves as one that was not afraid to play around with lo-fi influences that can also include group choruses and screaming intensity.

Those previous EP’s showed that The World Is was not afraid of recording a quiet and toned-down piece that builds to a big and loud payoff later on the album. While bands will often do this in a song (think: nearly every Sonic Youth song), The World Is does it as arcs. Two songs might be separate ideas that contribute to a booming climax a song later. It’s all very unique and often very wrenching. Their first full-length, though, suffers from too much build-up and not enough pay-off.

That is not to say the album is not good. It’s great, it’s absolutely great. Even in it’s outwardly subdued moments, the band can easily create an uneasy feeling, a sense that something is not right. They competently do this in every one of the album’s ten songs. This is what emo sounds like now, inspired equally by shoegaze, experimentation, other current emo bands, and probably suburban CT life. The World Is is one of my favorite bands out there now, they’re pioneering a wholly new sound. “Whenever, If Ever” just needs one or two more pay-offs of screaming vocals to separate the quiet moments. Still, this album is unique. It has its faults, but it is extraordinarily original. And at the end of the day, a band making some faulty quests into new territory is largely better than one sticking around in familiar territory.

If you like this, try: Their old EP’s, mentioned above. All are available on Spotify and Bandcamp. Alternately, “Fun” by Algernon Cadwallader or “I Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted” by Snowing. Check out every band on Top Shelf Records, if you’re truly interested.

-By Andrew McNally