By Colin Hyde
The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die’s sophomore full
length is one of the most ambitious emo revival records of recent years. At almost 54 minutes in
length, Harmlessness is massive. It incorporates a variety of different sounds and song
structures: twinkly guitars, crisp male and female driven harmonies, pounding drums, layers of
strings and synths, and drawn out post-rock style build ups. Despite the long run time and all of
its melodramatics, this album compels me to hand over my mind and emotions during each listen.
After the Willimantic, Connecticut band’s debut LP, Whenever, If Ever, the band went
through some changes (not a name change, unfortunately). Among these were the shuffling
around of members, the release of an EP featuring a spoken word artist, and their decision to sign
with Epitaph Records. This raised some concerns about the direction they would choose to go
with their sound. However, with Harmlessness, The World is… has taken a direct path to
excellence. Compared to their debut, this album is bigger and brighter sounding. The raspy and
whiny singing has been replaced with crisp, powerful and coherent vocals which accompany the
instrumentation beautifully. The song “Haircuts for Everybody” comes to mind. The sound
starts with a simplistic, floaty riff that fades into the background as the song crescendos into an
atmospheric climax in which David and Katie belt out their lines in desperation.
The percussion is mixed very loudly and deserves to be. It is some of the strongest
drumming you’ll hear on an album in this genre of music. “Ra Patera Dance” and “January 10th,
2014” in particular, feature some relentlessly explosive fills. The songs are interwoven very well.
The transitions between tracks make the album feel like one substantial idea, rather than a
collection of scattered ideas. Still, each song feels new because of the band’s ability to bring
variety to the table.
Lyrically, the band touches on relatable issues in whimsical and poetic fashion. If you
immerse yourself into the words, lyricist David Bello can provide a long, cathartic therapy
session. Self-doubt and anxiety are common lyrical themes, but by the end, he invokes
hopefulness that transcends negativity. “I Can be Afraid of Anything,” a 7 minute long single
followed by a triumphant 8 minute long closer, uses a metaphor to deepen comprehension of the
sensitive subject of mental illness. This topic is approached from an existentialist perspective. “I
really did dig my own hole, but I can see the top. I’m climbing out.” The lead single “January
10th, 2014,” is uniquely about an external struggle, rather than an internal one. It tells the true
story of Diana, The Hunter; a female vigilante who killed bus drivers in Mexico, seeking
vengeance for sexual assaults against their passengers.
This is a brilliant piece of work and my favorite album of the year. It deserves to be
listened to many times over with the lyrics on hand and a good pair of headphones. If a hole is
where you find yourself, this may serve as a means to dig yourself out.