Everything is Beautiful is the follow-up to a record that captured my mind with structured, well-written songs that carried a youthful, explosive energy. Now Everything is Beautiful is here, and with every much-anticipated record, its arrival comes with bittersweet feelings of crushed hopes and dreams come true. The relationship between the two albums cannot be described in one sentence, but in comparison to Pray for Sound’s sophomore album, Everything is Beautiful sounds surprisingly mature.
RELEASE DATE: 23 September 2016 LABEL: dunk!records, I Am Shark, AM/FM Records
After several weeks of listening it became apparent that with this maturity also came a certain sense of discretion and sophistication, yet this does not mean that Everything is Beautiful is entirely a world apart from the band’s previous efforts. Despite any claims from the band (“This is an instrumental rock record”, “Bruce is the only one who listens to post-rock.”), Everything is Beautiful is post-rock. The album is filled with those soundscapes and melodies that I railed against in my previous review, but regardless of that, Everything is Beautiful is less of a post-rock record than Dreamer, and certainly less so than Monophonic! However, many of the typical feats displayed on Dreamer are present on Everything is Beautiful. Most notably Steve Aliperta’s characteristic fills and crescendos (I am really a fan of this guy!), but also the refined use of strings. Guitarist Bruce Malley mentions, “We all feel Everything is Beautiful expanded on Dreamer in the best ways,” and this rings true on many levels. Where Dreamer was unconventional in its rigid song structures and pop aspirations, Everything is Beautiful is pushing the envelope in a more concealed way.
The 11 songs that make up this album take a different approach than the slow-start-to-stormy-climax format that characterises many post-rock bands. The tracks on Everything is Beautiful flow easily from one into another, slowly moving on, while subtly referencing one another. They eschew traditional build-ups, while not necessarily taking away that feeling of spiritual gratification that you get at the high point of a song.
Conceptually, Everything is Beautiful portrays a juxtaposition of dark and light, both in the music as well as in the song titles, but this dichotomy isn’t always clear and well-defined. The dark side, consisting of the first five songs, is more dissonant than the light side, but the difference isn’t exactly like yin and yang. The first half of the record conveys more of a wintery darkness that is cold and dissonant, rather than nihilistic or destructive. The album is called Everything is Beautiful for a reason. The second half of the record – with the exception of the last song Valley of Unrest – is more upbeat and shimmery. It calls out, “Congratulations! You are alive!” and the band shows more of its rhythmic, math rock side. Only one song seems to fall out of this pattern, which is the middle track. The Light in Your Eyes feels empty as a separate track, largely because it mirrors the chord progression and melody of Anything Can Be. Combining them would make sense, but that would result in a 9 minute-long song with a semi-traditional post-rock build-up, which we know the band wanted to avoid. I told you this was a post-rock record in everything except its genre designation.
All the while, the song titles also convey this dichotomy of light and dark, but if you don’t pay attention to it as a listener, you probably won’t notice. The core concept of Everything is Beautiful is very subtle, and it might get lost on some listeners, but if you dive in and connect the dots, the pattern will become more visible – and Everything is Beautiful certainly invites the listener to dive in. The album is a very deep and elaborate record with a tremendous growing quality. Valley of Unrest for example turned from a weak album ender to an incredible track that excellently unites the dark and light side of the record. In this way, many of the songs, and especially the ones on the dark side of the record, have a way of opening up before the listener that makes Everything is Beautiful very worthwhile.
Everything is Beautiful is definitely a significant step forward in this band’s artistic development. The composition of the music became even better than before and the production quality improved too. With this album Pray for Sound have shown a dedication to growth that is rare in bands these days, and this, together with an incredible attention to detail, is what makes Everything is Beautiful an effort to be lauded.