Sound — 8
Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga, better known as the duo Have A Nice Life, have garnered a lot of anticipation from indie music fanatics with such few releases. Their debut release, a two-CD studio album titled "Deathconsciousness," put them on the map by displaying a blend of shoegaze, post-punk, industrial, drone, and ambient genres, which was well-acclaimed not only for being a good example of a unique sound, but for being damn good as well. The duo had made it known soon after their debut album that a follow-up album was to come in due time, and after several years (as well as a free EP, "Time of Place") between then and now, Have A Nice Life brings forth their sophomore album.
"The Unnatural World" builds a fine aesthetic of being a dark and ominous album without trying to shallowly frighten you. Songs like "Guggenheim Wax Museum," "Burial Society" and "Cropsey" drape you in a fog-like myriad of droning sounds from synths and heavily distorted guitars and bass, and songs like "Music Will Untune the Sky" and "Emptiness Will Ruin the Witch" are euphoric interludes that lull you but don't put you under. The heavily-reverbed vocals in every track - which can be fairly described as sounding like cult sermons- are cloudy and never too clear for comfort, which amplifies the ominous feeling even further. While all of these aspects may instinctively trigger a sense of unease, it doesn't compel you to turn off the music and hide under the covers - it intrigues you to continue listening. However, sometimes the intrigue can wear off in the midst of the unapologetically long outros, such as in "Burial Society," "Emptiness Will Ruin the Witch," and "Dan and Time, Reunited by Fate." The post-punk side of the album shines in "Defenestration Song," which has an intro that has a familiarity to the likes of Joy Division, "Unholy Life," which is the shortest and quickest song on the album, and "Dan and Time, Reunited by Fate," which has a dominant bassline that could be compared to a Tool song - but even these songs end up being consumed by the primary shoegazing/drone elements of the album. So just know that that will be the biggest serving you get from the album, whether you like it or not.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrical elements in "The Unnatural World" complement the darkness of the music, and are both composed and delivered with striking woe and misery - whether it be the "doom & gloom" lines like "I never thought I'd lead this restless life/I thought I'd wither down, a sacrifice/There's nothing I can do to make it stop/It's in my nature, it gives me chills" in "Defenestration Song," or the melancholy-laden chanting of "I've been waiting on anyone" in "Cropsey." However, the fact that the vocals are opaque rather than crystal clear helps the lyrics from becoming angsty to the point of being frivolous. An example would be the line "Cut my wrists, slit my throat, take this body and string it up/And I'll never hear what you said, because I'll be f--king dead by then" - if it were used in the context of metal or screamo, it would more likely warrant a laugh for sounding over-the-top cliché.
Overall Impression — 8
At first glance, eight songs for an LP seems meager, but seeing as all but one of those eight songs runs at five minutes or longer, the amount of music you're getting is indeed equitable. More importantly, however, is that this album feels very complete. It's not known how many compositions Barrett and Macuga made in the many years they worked on "The Unnatural World," but the songs that made it onto the album were fine choices and each one is indispensable, and nothing more is necessary to add - in fact, adding more would have probably made it too full. Some songs on the album do take their sweet time with intros and outros, so if you're not the most patient person in the world, this could be a bit trying, but the atmosphere of "The Unnatural World" is superb as a whole, and is a remarkable addition to Have A Nice Life's discography.