The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Always Foreign
Always Foreign marks a thematic departure for Connecticut collective hereon in referred to as TWIABP. Previous-full lengths like Harmlessness touched a lot on perseverance and encouraged self-care.
The uplifting sentiment conjured by a band with a name like theirs continues at the start of Always Foreign, with vocalist David Bello promising to ‘make everything/ A story of love’. In the context of the rest of the record, however, this lyric takes on a bitter form, becoming an observation on the futility of tracing out the silver lining when the news is effectively a soap opera about the White House.
The second single ‘Marine Tigers’ shares its name with the title of a memoir written by Bello’s father, an account of the racism and solitude he was faced with in 1940’s New York. Those feelings of isolation, of trying to come to terms with an environment that’s specifically engineered to exclude people like you, is captured succinctly ‘We’re here/ I told you so/Like oil in an ocean’.
As the illusion of the American dream has betrayed generations of immigrants and people of colour, the same can be said of big pharma. The opioid crisis is soundtracked on ‘Gram’. Behind lyrics such as ‘You had to work four jobs and used two phones/ But the drug store still ends up with all our money’, a tribal drum beat plays alongside long, lingering keys, evoking the desperation that comes with being trapped in cycles of depression or anxiety.
Always Foreign is by far the band’s most coherent artistic statement thus far. Although in thinking things through so meticulously, this LP doesn’t generate the same heights as Harmlessness does.
CT Rating: 7/10
Four Tet – New Energy
New Energy is an album of contrasts. Four Tet, real name Kieran Hebden, is also an artist of contrasts; he can really bring emotion to the dancefloor. Where producers of a similar vein mostly attempt to evoke euphoria, Four Tet has you revisiting childhood memories during your two-step.
Hebden sets out his intentions early on the track ‘Two Thousand and Seventeen’, creating anticipation using a sparse, uncomplicated 4/4 rhythm and standing it up against a melody that almost becomes frantic at times. He then flips this juxtaposition on the following song, ‘LA Trance’, bringing in a slightly misshapen kick drum to realign the listener’s attention.
This path becomes familiar on this LP; the focus shifting and meandering in a pattern identifiable by each song length. Look down the tracklist on New Energy, the push-pull seen throughout this record is again evident in an interrupted batch of 1-2 minute and 5-7 minute songs. Perhaps this record’s greatest achievement is that not one of the long form tracks misses its mark.
Which begs the question about the necessity of the interludes, are they more than a mere stop-gap before the album’s next great moment? If viewed as reference points, these shorter bursts allow Hebden to navigate without having to expand on every idea. Take the swirling synths and string arpeggios on ‘Falls 2’, the space in between here allows for the arrival of a basic drum pattern on ‘You Are Loved’.
The closer, ‘Planet’, cements New Energy as one of the year’s most rewarding listens. In the context of a record with so many distinct peaks and troughs, where frequently the simple and sublime cast light on another, ‘Planet’ is the culmination of all that. The beat is accentuated with a hammering vocal sample, more wild strings trade swipes with a synthesised wind instrument. Altogether, this could be the perfect bookend.
CT Rating: 8/10
Niall O’Shaughnessy – Music Writer