Review Summary: Relentlessly catchy, and much better than you'd expect.
Of the vocalists that have had the privilege of working with Dance Gavin Dance, Kurt Travis is not the first person you'd think would create a great solo album. His vocal range is admittedly the least impressive of the three, and his actual voice is hard to envision as something working well outside of the scope of the genres he's previously worked with. Tilian Pearson's solo effort utilized simple, poppy song structures to highlight the impressive heights he could reach with his vocals, and Jonny Craig's outstandingly beautiful voice carries him though whatever...mishmash of genres he sees fit to call his solo "work". But Kurt has less to work with, and for this album, that lead him to focus on writing catchy, inventive songs that don't necessarily rely on complicated vocal parts to be diverse and entertaining.
The serenely ambient opener and title track "Everything Is Beautiful" is more than enough evidence for this. It honestly wouldn't feel out of place on a Mogwai release, and while it's a relatively large departure from the nature of the rest of the album, it's a perfect way to start off the proceedings. It's impressive how little Travis has to draw from his musical history to hit things out of the park: "It's All Over" mixes "sexy" vocals with a hypnotically melancholic guitar riff with a result that's far greater than the sum of its parts; "Too Loud / Too Cold" has an fantastically nostalgic alternative rock vibe, almost sounding like it could have come from the Foo Fighters or Smashing Pumpkins; and "Desperate" has a relentlessly funky chorus tempered by comparatively relaxed verses. It's really only on "Casting Dreams" where Kurt brings some of his main band's sound into the mix, complete with a cameo by fellow A Lot Like Birds vocalist Cory Lockwood, but the song quickly distinguishes itself when the fist-pumpingly catchy chorus hits. And the lead single "Brain Lord" sounds like the style of predictable, vaguely DGD-influenced pop that most people would have expected from a Kurt solo outing, but still manages to be one of the more infectious tracks on the record.
Kurt's lyrics don't approach anywhere near the level of the potent poetry that Cory brought to ALLB's "No Place", but they also don't bring the cheese quite as much as you would expect, and they're much more liable to get stuck in your head. Vocal layering is often employed to get the most out of the melodies, and the production by Josh Benton and the always-brilliant Kris Crummett makes everything sound just as grand and punchy as it ought to be. "Everything Is Beautiful" sets a new standard for the solo work of DGD alumni - poppy enough to be accessible to people not as accustomed to the complexity of ALLB and creative enough to stand almost on par with the rest of his work. Even if you haven't been all that into Kurt's previous endeavors, this album comes highly recommended for any fan of pop music.