I heard "iamundernodisguise" and was immediately hooked on the band.
Like, so hooked I sent the song to the girl I was courting and was like "ZOMG have you listened to this?!" Sometimes I like to think my excitement about music must be endearing to my friends and family, but who the hell really knows.
But how could I *not* be excited? School of Seven Bells were (was?) unlike anything I had heard before. It was so new and so powerful. And so honest? There was something genuine and pure about their music. In a world of overproduced and overglossed sounds, it was finding a warm place to seek shelter in.
As I got older, I abandoned School of Seven Bells. But not by choice. Life happened. Dream pop lost its appeal. I wasn't so idealistic or so romantic; I didn't think there were any warm places to seek shelter in. I graduated from college and left home. School of Seven Bells kept making music, though, and when I stopped to listen, nothing quite moved me like before.
But some songs remained beautiful.
I saw School of Seven Bells twice - once in Pittsburgh on their own and once as an opener for Interpol when I visited Portland. Nothing about the live sets sticks out to me so much except for the moments the harmonies came together, the melodies circled back - and at least in the Pittsburgh show - how it had shades of a religious ceremony at certain intervals.
Claudia left the band in 2010, and I casually read the news online and was bummed to hear that had transpired. One of the big, big, big appeals of School of Seven Bells to me were the harmonies. Oh man, those harmonies between Alejandra and Claudia! Ethereal. Those voices blended like honey and milk. Honestly, I didn't think School of Seven Bells would be the same. And I didn't care to investigate; at this time, I was undergoing a lot of tough and drastic personal changes, and their music failed to move me.
2012 brought "Ghostory," my least favorite album of theirs. This one just didn't have the same sincerity of their first two albums. It was too dance-y; it didn't feel right.
Around this time, Ben became very sick. He would pass away at the end of 2013, leaving Alejandra as the sole member of School of Seven Bells. Here's a snippet of a Joey Ramone song he covered as he was dying:
Alejandra took a few years to release the last School of Seven Bells album, and with good reason. She moved from New York to Los Angeles and began gradually making music again. Meanwhile, I only found out a few months ago that Ben had died and this newest album, "SVIIB," would be their swan song. 2013 was a mess for me and 2014 was me getting out of that chaos, so I missed out on some cultural happenings during that period.
"SVIIB" is definitely the second-best album in School of Seven Bells' canon, right there behind "Alpinisms." It sounds like the perfect marriage of their original sound with a more pop-influenced, synth-heavy inspiration. And it doesn't come off as forced, insincere, or canned. It comes out right.
"These are the kisses that burn on our lips."
I have spent the past few months getting back into School of Seven Bells, and rekindling the love I had for them as a college kid in her newspaper office, listening to "Alpinisms" with the lights on low and an unabashed belief that the world was intrinsically a good place. "SVIIB" - from "Ablaze" to "A Thousand Times More" to my hands-down no-holds-barred favorite, "This Is Our Time" (listen to that above) - can still convince you that there is so much goodness and beauty to behold.
I've become awed by how much love was present in School of Seven Bells. The band was built on the relationship between Ben and Alejandra - romantic, platonic, creative-speaking. And all over "SVIIB," you can feel its presence. I think having that one connection in your life you can collaborate in some way, creatively or otherwise, that's something you need to cherish. Those sort of connections are the best. Losing that connection with another person is losing a part of yourself.
Realizing that "SVIIB" is the concluding chapter in an all-too-short career is way bittersweet. It's a goodbye to a beloved old friend, one who you may have fallen out of contact with over time, but will nevertheless occupy a very sacred place in your heart.
If you haven't yet, give School of Seven Bells a chance. I promise you won't be disappointed. And remember: Life is all too short. Put love into everything you do.