Happyness – Weird Little Birthday
Weird Smiling, 2014
My notes for UK trio Happyness’s debut LP consist solely of a list of bands Happyness clearly hold near and dear to their hearts. Sparklehorse, Wilco, Eels, Yo La Tengo. There are more, but after crossreferencing this list with other reviews of the band, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one that thought Happyness act is a bit of pastiche. That’s not a burn, though, because one of my favorite new bands of the last five years—fellow Brits Yuck—released a debut that culled all the best parts of 90s indie rock and delivered it in a way that made me forget the sum of the band’s influences entirely. They synthesized the feel of Pavement and the like and reignited that part of my heart that loved the way those songs felt and made me feel. Happyness do the same damn thing and warm the particular cockles of my heart tuned into American lo-fi ramshackle pop music.
But really, I should let it be known that this band really sounds like Sparklehorse. And “Naked Pictures” sounds like it could have been a b-side from Wilco’s Summerteeth (there’s also the lyric “there’s something in you bloodier than blood” on a later album track). The downtrodden “Pumpkin Noir” plays like every Eels track that wasn’t “Novocain For the Soul.” But as the guitars jangle on, and as the influences become mixed and morph into this band’s personality, I find myself enjoying this weird little album more and more. I get the feeling that these guys are more than capable of crawling out from under the shadow of their heroes. Regardless, Weird Little Birthday is pretty damn infectious and delightful and when they're at their best (the aching penultimate track "Lofts" is a wonderfully sad, wonderfully written piece of mope pop and sounds like someone has gone over it with a highlighter) they cut right through your heart.
"Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste the Same"
"Baby, Jesus (Jelly Boy)"