“Harmlessness” shatters expectations

Legendary emo collective creates a timeless masterpiece.



Christian Davis, Writer

The emo revival was somewhat of a rabbit hole for me. That is, if the revival exists in the first place. The debate raging across comment threads and Twitter mentions for the past few years has not reached any definitive conclusion. The evidence points towards the former, in that the revival did indeed happen and at the same time bands who previously never left basements were all collectively putting out transcendent records. The seeds were sown during the ‘90s when waves of bands slowed down punk and lyrically focused less on oppressive, corporate forces and instead analyzed why their relationships failed and how scary the real world is.


A decade and a half later, music writers had an absolute field day when bands seemingly climbed out of the woodwork with records that tied back to American Football, Braid and Mineral’s heyday, even though loyal fans of these “new” bands stuck with them in anonymity. I have said it before, and I will say it again.

None of this matters.

Revival or not, these records are here, they have changed things and all evidence points to “The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die” existing at the center of it all. Strikingly similar to the blog-rock explosion of the mid 2000s, emo shed its prior connotations and arrived at the forefront of criticism. If Arcade Fire was blog-rocks indie darling, TWIABP is undoubtedly emo revival’s flagship — and they have just released their “Funeral.”


The philosophy behind TWIABP’s second official full length is the idea of existing in neutrality, of living in a way that harms no one. But the music is the least neutral aspect of any record considered “emo” since the entire revival started. “Harmlessness” explodes in ways other indie-rock bands can only dream of. Make no mistake, this is a startling, abrupt study in focus and bombastic beauty. The backing vocals in the middle of “I Can Be Afraid of Everything” are textbook Sufjan-esque maximalism, a by-product of an emo record with bigger ideas than most indie records in the past five years. “January 10th 2014” experiments with narrative, with members taking vocal turns to showcase a story featured in NPR’s “This American Life.”

Everyone has that list of records that have changed their life. TWIABP’s debut full length “Whenever, If Ever” is near the top of that list in my head, and there is no way I could review the follow-up without stressing just how important it was to me. Honestly, that record worked its way into my life and I will forever associate it with some of my hardest moments. Even still, I could not be more grateful.


“Harmlessness” is out, and its effect on the emo revival and indie-rock at large is yet to be calculated, but we all know without a shadow of a doubt that something special has happened. Nothing will ever be the same. TWIABP earnestly pour themselves out to their listeners, showing us what they are afraid of, and what keeps them singing. They remind us that “You Can’t Live There Forever.” “Harmlessness” reminds all of us that it is okay to be afraid.

Years ago they did a split 7” with Deer Leap. One of those song titles stuck with me through everything. Years later, I am in a completely different place — maybe a bit less emotionally dependent on this band than I used to be. TWIABP has aged with me, but uncertainty and apprehension still run through my head just like it runs through everything they have ever recorded.

After everything, I will always remember that song title – “I Will Be Okay, Everything.”

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