The World Is A Beautiful PlaceandI Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Always Foreign (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The World Is A Beautiful PlaceandI Am No Longer Afraid to Die

Always Foreign (2017)


2013's Whenever, If Ever ended with the statement:

The world is a beautiful place but we have to make it that way. Whenever you find home we'll make it more than just a shelter. And if everyone belongs there it will hold us all together. If you're afraid to die, then so am I.

When it comes to The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die (TWIABP for short), this track "Getting Sodas" wasn't just the most fitting for a cathartic, eye-opening record that may well have shaped the indie/emo revival as we knew it, but it was also an emotional swell unlike any other I've experienced. Whatever came after, including 2015's Harmlessness, wasn't going to live up to this. But try they did. Commendably so. But come Always Foreign... what strikes me is how it feels just like their 2013 piece all over again, not just because the lyrics and content resonate with me personally, but because of the message it offers the world. It's very much political and that's life. No matter what, life will always be political.

I spoke with frontman Dave Bello on Always Foreign and he definitely made this clear. It addresses, not necessarily US politics alone, but xenophobia and discrimination on the whole. And oddly enough, it was just as North Carolina's racist issues broke out recently, which Bello touched on, being from around that area. Hearing him expound on white supremacy was something even more engaging to me, and the timing as to what was happening made it all the more poignant. This pops up on "Marine Tigers" -- which is the boat that brought his father over from Puerto Rico. Also, he's half-Lebanese so you'll definitely hear a lot of what being the outsider meant to him growing up. It sums the record up best -- not to aggressive but not too melodic -- and shifts gear from indie/emo to post-hardcore/post-punk territory. The same could be said for "Hilltopper" which is another riffy, cerebral take that stands in stark contrast to the lighter jams on the album, and which over the last couple years felt like the band's experimental direction.

"The Future" and "Dillon and Her Son" are a couple examples of this. Poppier, vibrant and fizzier, yet steeped with dark lyricism. Or should I say, highly relatable? Either way, they brighten up the heavier tones of Always Foreign and give Bello a neat playground of duality. And boy, does he shine in this sandbox as he crafts what to me is the band's best-written work to date. Musically and in terms of inventiveness, 2013 stands tall but again, 2017 brings forth a work of art. While the gap is bridged between the old and new sound, there are still a couple gems in the haze in between, namely the acoustic pool. "Gram" and "For Robin" are examples, with their stripped-down essence giving the album room to breathe and for you to, well, not feel foreign to the novel at hand. The latter tackles substance abuse and loss of life as a result so again, the themes aren't breaking new ground here but they feel way more personal and laced with stronger visuals.

This highlights how TWIABP bring a vulnerability to the table which I haven't experienced in quite some time from them, and while they've gone through lineup changes and band member drama, they're still willing to risk it all. Heart-on-sleeve with yet another impassioned fit of rage against the machines existing today. It's not loud or in-your-face. It's not preachy. Their stance is subtle yet strong and with that in mind, I'd bet on them topping any conflict. As a band, as artists and as humans. When it all winds down, it's unmistakeable -- Always Foreign is the kind of record that's always necessary.