ALBUM REVIEW: Happyness “Write In”

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photo by Emilla Orving

They’ve done it again. My favorite (contemporary) British trio is back with a follow up to their 2015 debut Weird Little Birthday. If Happyness have given me anything aside from ace interview material and two years of fabulous music, they have laid the groundwork for something very dear to me as a music journalist: the ability to follow a band’s career indefinitely.

Though I hope I’m not jinxing their livelihood, Happyness seem to possess a great potential for longevity. In this high turnover industry, sometimes all one can ask for is a band you can grow with.

The group’s sophomore LP Write In tells me these three Londoners won’t be disappearing any time soon. While this record certainly bears the Happyness stamp, it also conveys a breadth of growth and maturity when stacked up against their previous recordings. That maturity exists in song structure, yes, but also in lyrical content, which has become, to use bassist Jon EE Allan’s word of choice from a press release, more “earnest.”

If on Weird Little Birthday Happyness charmed us with their searing wit and irreverence, on Write In they move us with their sincerity and vulnerability. It seems that Allan, guitarist Benji Compston, and drummer Ash Cooper have become more whole as songwriters, and as people. It’s almost as if they’re, dare I say, growing up – and I’m fond of how gracefully they are doing so.

Write In’s opening number, “Falling Down” is immediate evidence of such grace. Its somber, slow build expands with layers of lush sound, culminating in shrieking synths. Somehow austere and glittering, morose and hopeful, it is the perfect song for a bedridden, rainy day…and that’s just the kind of day I’m having.

Highlights of the record are almost too numerous to mention, but I am going to do so regardless. “Anytime” is a downright masterful pop song, with its My Bloody Valentine-esque sludge and contrasting bright riffs (that keyboard! Those “oohs”!) That a gorgeous melody could peek its head through so much distortion and fog is a lovely thing.

“Through Windows” speaks to Happyness’ self-proclaimed love of Burt Bacharach, but also brings to mind the brilliance of Harry Nilsson and Blur at their finest. It is songs like this that establish these gents as stellar songwriters; their attention to detail defying their inattention to what t-shirts they happen to be wearing at any given moment.

“Bigger Glass Less Full” is Write In’s more aggressive outlier, much like “Refrigerate Her” on Weird Little Birthday. It doesn’t completely match, but it’s a welcome pop of color amidst the murky warmth of the surrounding tracks. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “This C Is A B A G” is particularly open and intimate, allowing you to really step into their cozy recording studio. The track concludes with tiny cries that register almost like sonar dolphin songs – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: these guys know how to write keyboard hooks that skewer you.

Toward the LP’s end, “Anna, Lisa Calls” stands out as a quintessential Happyness track…a poppy and thoughtful slice of indie rock. Just when you think they’ve outdone themselves, the album closes with “Tunnel Vision On Your Part” – the title track of Happyness’ 2016 EP. The sweeping, melancholy ballad bookends the record perfectly, evoking a similar sadness to “Falling Down.”

Despite their newly stoic approach, the band members haven’t snipped away their senses of humor. With song titles like “The Reel Start Again (Man As Ostrich)” and an endearingly funny music video for “Through Windows” featuring a clever microwave scene, Happyness aren’t taking themselves too seriously…but I hope they don’t mind if I do.

Write In is out now on Bar/None Records.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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