Letlive.
The Blackest Beautiful


4.0
excellent

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
July 9th, 2013 | 706 replies | 73,264 views


Release Date: 07/09/2013 | Tracklist


For a long time after I first heard it, I wanted to write a review for Letlive’s Fake History. I’m not sure why I never did, but it probably had something to do with the apologist tone that I would have inevitably taken. I love Fake History, even at one point giving it a classic rating. But whenever I would think about how to start a review, I would mostly try to come up with defensive explanations. “They don’t even sound like Glassjaw!” “Given some more time, I think that Jason Butler could have something really unique and hard-hitting to say about racial and social issues in America!” And for whatever reason, I imagined myself then making some sort of comparison between Letlive and velociraptors. Like, velociraptors, in your head, are sleek, badass predators built to hunt and kill. But they were actually covered in feathers and looked fucking absurd.

The point, then, (I guess) would be this: can’t something still be cool even if it’s a little ridiculous?

But first, a word about those aforementioned Glassjaw comparisons. The single similarity I hear between the two bands is the tone of the clean vocals. To compare them in any musical sense is to either drastically overrate Letlive or drastically underrate Glassjaw. The things that Glassjaw were able to accomplish in both tone and texture are so far beyond most other bands in the post-hardcore genre that it’s almost unfair to compare anyone to them, let alone a relatively young, unproven band like Letlive. I think I heard more Paramore in Fake History’s choruses than anything else, and I guess people will see that as a negative, but I don’t. As for specific post-hardcore comparisons, they’ve always had more in common with the Alexisonfire-Hopesfall brand than anything else.

I think it’s appropriate then to ask what it is about Letlive’s music that causes people who dislike them to compare them to a pinnacle of the genre like Glassjaw when they really don’t sound too much like them. Letlive clearly have aspirations that are apparent even to their detractors: they shoot for big choruses, they write lyrics about big topics, and they deal, at times, in an intensity that is almost suffocating (if you don’t believe me, it’s possible you didn’t listen to “Casino Columbus” and “We, The Pros Of Con” enough). The Blackest Beautiful attempts to coagulate its predecessor’s strengths into a cohesive statement that makes sense from start to finish and, perhaps, by its end, has said something. Whether Letlive succeeded in that particular sense is up to the individual listener, but I can say that this album sounds much more mature to me than Fake History, which I had already thought was pretty forward-thinking for a young band. Jason Butler, in particular, has gone for nuance rather than overt catchiness in his melodies, and the band as a whole is stronger for it. Songs on Fake History sometimes sounded like they were simply vehicles for Butler’s frenetic performances instead of complete songs. That isn’t the case here, which means that most of these songs aren’t as immediate, but lack of immediacy is generally a good indicator of an album’s longevity, especially in post-hardcore.

Not that some of these songs don’t hit hard right out of the gate; the one-two punch of “The Priest And Used Cars” and “Pheromone Cvlt” comes to mind first. The former combines the nonstop riffing of earlier Letlive songs in the verses with a restrained chorus that features one of Butler’s best vocal performances, while the latter is all restraint. It’s probably the most personal song on the album, by which I mean it deals with relationships, something that Butler doesn’t write much about. But a careful listen to the lyrics will reveal just how self-aware he is (“To all the girls who would be perfect for me/Break my jaw so we can’t talk about me”), which is a good counterpoint to those who feel that his constant vocalizing equates to selfishness. Sure, songs like “Banshee (Ghost Fame)” that feature rapped vocals can sound a little preposterous at first, but when you think about it, haven’t punk and hip-hop always sort of walked side by side? Butler certainly thinks so, and the more I listen, the less inclined I am to disagree with the way he chooses to present his message.

There have been some complaints about the album being underproduced, or at least poorly mastered, but those seem to be based on a bad leak. If anything, the album is too produced. Letlive would benefit from production that is a little more raw; the polished sound present here (and on Fake History) can make Butler’s pre- and post-song ad-libs feel concocted and planned, which again doesn’t jive with the self-awareness that he reveals through his lyrics. And speaking of the lyrics, in closer “27 Club,” Butler cheekily describes himself as “an example, an exhibition,” and that can probably serve as the best available mission statement for him, his band, and The Blackest Beautiful. He knows that in this world full of uncomfortable truths, one of the worst is that our entertainment often spurs more change than anything people see on the news or read in the paper. He knows that people use music and art to shape their views and beliefs even though they probably shouldn’t, and the least he can do is try to turn that into something positive. Who am I to call that ridiculous?



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user ratings (652)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
SeaAnemone
July 8th 2013



19944 Comments


"pinnacle of the genre like Glassjaw"

my brain hurts

and does this mean you and hanson are breaking up now?

Digging: Natural Snow Buildings - The Night Country

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2013



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

oh shut up

CK
July 8th 2013



4908 Comments


idk

Gwyn.
July 8th 2013



14990 Comments


it's Channing time

Digging: diSEMBOWELMENT - Transcendence into the Peripheral

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2013



15002 Comments


stay schemin

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2013



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i know probably nobody will agree with anything i've said, but i like this band a lot for whatever reason

YourDarkAffected
Contributing Reviewer
July 8th 2013



1648 Comments


I saw these guys live with mewithoutYou, The Chariot, and Underoath. They tore it up. I should really check this out already

Digging: My Brightest Diamond - None More Than You

SeaAnemone
July 8th 2013



19944 Comments


"Jason Butler, in particular, has gone for nuance rather than overt catchiness in his melodies"
channing please turn your trophy scars down i believe you are going deaf
seriously though I sensed the exact opposite throughout this and that's one main reason as to why it was such an atrocious listen

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2013



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ya but you already hated this band so i'm not sure what you were expecting

SeaAnemone
July 8th 2013



19944 Comments


"ya but you already hated this band so i'm not sure what you were expecting"

fair
snarky comments done with for now

plus you have the best avatar on the site so *respect*

Gwyn.
July 8th 2013



14990 Comments


Evidently I don't agree but this is obviously an awesome review because it's fucking channing freeman i mean obviously

Personally I still think the vocalist is excellent, regardless of the effects.

WeepingBanana
July 8th 2013



10078 Comments


i thought fake history was pure ball sacks so i probably won't be checking this out

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2013



28391 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thank christ. reading now.

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2013



15002 Comments


good review


O_O

Kris.
July 8th 2013



12234 Comments


"Sure, songs like “Banshee (Ghost Fame)” that feature rapped vocals can sound a little preposterous at first, but when you think about it, haven’t punk and hip-hop always sort of walked side by side"

just because something has happened before doesn't make it a good thing

i mean i enjoyed fake history for what it was, but that song made damn sure i'll never listen to the rest of this album, shit is awful

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2013



28391 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

good writeup

Butler certainly think so


inconsequential typo

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
July 8th 2013



49972 Comments


lol Chan

Digging: Armchairpolitician - Seven Segment Decoder

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2013



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i dunno i really don't think his 'rapping' is much different than screaming a bunch of words really quickly

Cygnatti
July 8th 2013



21349 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

because it isn't. but if rapping is just rhythmic speaking/singing with rhymes and punchlines, then I
suppose it is.

Kris.
July 8th 2013



12234 Comments


it's just horribly off-putting to me but opinions and whatnot



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