The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – “Broken Bodies”

Grade: B

Key Track: “If And When I Die”

Nine-member band The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die aren’t exactly known for palpable, conventional music. You can probably tell by staring at their eighteen syllable name. Their mix of emo, ambiance, twee-pop and dissonance has, for a few years now, brought a fresh voice to a scene dominated largely by straight pop-punk. Their new EP, recorded alongside spoken word artist Chris Zizzamia, is even more confoundingly complex and headache-y than their previous works.

The band, who I’m going to shorten to The World Is to avoid carpal tunnel (no offense!), brought on Zizzamia to bring a form of intense narration to their ambient music. They knew it would polarize fans – only the people truly onboard with them would appreciate it, because it is tough to swallow. Zizzamia spits some beautiful poetry throughout the EP, about human bodies making up stars, intertwining, and facing invincibility, all capping off with the beautiful line “I think my name is safest in your mouth” in the finale, “Autotonsorialist.” Another great line, “I like you like I like the dark/Why would I aim to defeat it?” peppers the track “Shoppers Beef.” Zizzamia is an interesting addition to the band – it isn’t just that spoken word works well alongside the band’s music, it’s that his spoken word works well. His flowing poetry, moving through anger, hope and experiment, is told with a spitting clarity and a scathing touch. It’s a strange fit, but that’s kind of the band’s MO, after all.

The band takes pages out of every section of their own playbook on “Broken Bodies.” Through the eight tracks, there’s a long, experimental opening, build-ups to climaxes that don’t happen, a conventional song (“$100 Tip”) that fades out into a multi-minute drum segment, and a track with a full, driving beat (“Space Explorations to Solve Earthly Crises”). They hit all their own notes. There are actual vocals throughout the album, in a few tracks. Some are just Zizzamia, some are both, and occasionally we get them simultaneously.

The fault in the EP’s experimentation is that it doesn’t have quite the same cohesiveness that their full-length, “Whenever, If Ever,” had. The EP flows, but each song is it’s own distinct being, where the tracks on their album all need each other to work. Still, spoken word alongside experimental emo makes for a very unique listen, like a sadder version of the Moody Blues’ “Knights in White Satin.” The World Is have already proven themselves to be one of the strangest, most difficult and original bands we have today, and “Broken Bodies” just extends this. This would probably never work for a full album, but it’s a consistent and consistently ambitious work, one that takes a few listens and aims for both the heart and the head.

Give them yr money and download it here.

If you like this, try: I don’t know, Pink Floyd? drugs?

-By Andrew McNally

One Hundred Year Ocean – “Where Were You While We Were Getting High?”

Photo Credit: Bandcamp

Grade: B+

A four-track EP from the six-piece collective One Hundred Year Ocean moderately resembles the growing band that includes some of the same members, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. The four tracks on this EP are more consistent in tone, but bare resemblance to the great emo band.

It is tough to really establish an idea across only four tracks, so nothing is overly fleshed out. But there is a distinct sense that the band is toying with song structures. The build-ups that are frequent among similar-sounding bands are present, just not at the usual points in the songs. There is a feeling that the music, just like the music of The World Is…, is not based on songs but one large idea, and the songs are just fragments of it.

The volume is steady on the album, as the verses seem to fit in with typical structures. So the band seems to operate as a bridge between standard music and the experimental and drawn-out sound of The World Is…, combining elements of both. There is a slight humorous edge to the band, too, evident in the title of the EP and on the song title “Soco Amaretto Bud Light Lime” (a take on Brand New’s “Soco Amaretto Lime”) and in the darkly catchy lyrics of opener “Hospital Town.” It is difficult to expand an EP into something great, but One Hundred Year Ocean is doing a pretty unique thing. It is distinctly emo-based, with elements of punk and a little room for experimentation.

If you like this, try: “Whenever, If Ever” by the aforementioned The World Is… (just released last month, scroll down only a little ways for a review)

Veenstra – “Six Months of Death”

Photo Credit: Bandcamp.com

Photo Credit: Bandcamp.com

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “A Bear/A Fire/A Cave,” “Stone Burial”

Francois Veenstra, a solo musician from Brazil, is in the midst of an existentially lo-fi trilogy. His second album, “Six Months of Death,” was recorded like his debut, in an ultimate lo-fi setting: a bedroom, alone, with a handheld recorder. The album’s title sets the existential tone and states that the album is going to be no less introspective than his previous effort, “Journey to the Sea”. The first album in the series saw a protagonist following a river to the sea. “Six Months of Death” follows this protagonist as he finds the sea and begins to wander aimlessly, realizing the pointlessness of his previous adventure.

Musically, the protagonist’s existential pains are felt through winding, quiet music, all recorded by Veenstra. The songs are more like movements, building up or winding down at unexpected points. The transitions between songs feel more like thought breaks than song breaks – which is good, as it implies that the album works well as a whole. His vocals are tough to decipher, but they only show up sometimes, as the whole entity of the album seems to encompass this character and his travels. The album is experimental lo-fi alternative stuff, often quiet but getting the point across. Veenstra is a pretty decent musician, commandeering drums and bass just when the muted guitar begins to get a little slow. It is certainly quiet and toned-down, so lo-fi fans take notice. I’m curious what will happen to the protagonist next.

Veenstra’s albums can be found on Bandcamp, and he runs the blog Beings Being.

If you like this, try: “Whenever, If Ever” by The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, the previous review before this one.

-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