The latest release from Willimantic’s The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (TWIABP) blends the group’s grandiose emo and post-rock sensibilities with elements of modern indie rock. “Always Foreign,” released Sept. 29, is the group’s third full-length studio LP and successfully builds on nearly a decade of creative orchestral instrumentation and moody lyricism while incorporating new elements of indie pop and politically-charged lyrics.
The album opens strong with “I’ll Make Everything,” which builds methodically from a single guitar to a massive crescendo of drums, horns and strings, making full use of the group’s seven members. The following track, “The Future,” is perhaps the weakest on the album, featuring uncharacteristically uninspired pop-punk instrumentation and lyrics that feel like a parody of the group’s occasional melodramatic flair. “Dillon and Her Son,” the sixth track on the album, faces similar problems, but adds more excitement with a sweeping synth line and lyrics that feel much more grounded, while maintaining some element of theatrics.
Fortunately, “Always Foreign” redeems itself with unique tunes like the time signature-hopping “Faker” and contemplative “Gram,” which is both one of the best and newest-sounding tracks on the album. The song touches on personal struggles of vocalist David F. Bello’s childhood as the son of immigrant parents. “Now they limit our culture to Fridays/You had to work four jobs and used two phones,” he sings over twinkling guitars and pulsing drums.
Bello builds on the theme of immigration and xenophobia on the single “Marine Tigers,” which, he told Noisey, is named after his father’s upcoming book about moving from Puerto Rico to New York. Bello address ideas of isolation and otherness as he sings, “Please remember as a person / It’s the land that’s always foreign.”
“Marine Tigers” is also the most overtly political cut, written in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. “Can you still call it a country, if all the states are broken?” Bello asks as the song crescendos into a chaotic din of blaring horns, which seem to reflect the band’s fears for the country’s future.
“For Robin” moves from macro issues to an incredibly intimate reflection on the loss of close friends. “In October, I saw/How he crashed head-on/With beer for blood and no seatbelt,” Bello sings over a slow acoustic backing. The deeply personal lyrics and pared-down instrumentation combine to form a poignant reflection on friendship and the fragility of life, as Bello compares the loss of close friends to the public mourning of celebrities (the song is named for comedian Robin Williams, who committed suicide in 2014).
“Always Foreign” forgoes some of the emo angst and calculated post-rock dissonance of earlier releases while still managing to push into new territory both musically and lyrically. Though perhaps not the group’s best release, this album contains several exceptional tracks and is certainly some of TWIABP’s most accessible work to date.
Long-time fans of the group should fear not—there are still crescendos, drum breaks, complex interwoven guitar riffs and emotionally charged lyrics a-plenty. For fans of classic Midwestern emo, Explosions In The Sky-style post-rock, and modern indie pop, “Always Foreign” is well worth a listen.
Charlie Smart is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.