A sophomore slump was never going to be a problem for London’s Happyness. Despite the quality of their second album, ‘Write In’, everything sounds so effortless as if the band were barely even concerned with making a worthy follow-up to 2014’s ‘Weird Little Birthday’. ‘Write In’ not only lives up to Happyness’ debut but shows a progression in the band’s music, their varied styles sounding much more focused than on ‘Weird Little Birthday’.
Throughout album number two, Happyness combine many influences to create a sound that’s hard to restrict to one genre – there are grunge and college rock elements on songs like ‘Uptrend Style’ and ‘Bigger Glass Less Full,’ but there’s also psychedelic leanings on ‘Through Windows’ and ‘The C is a BAG,’ through the use of synths (much less intrusive here than on ‘Weird Little Birthday’) and minimalist droning guitars, respectively.
While much of ‘Write In’ is just generally pleasant to listen to, as a collection of well-written hooks, melodies and riffs, there are some interesting sonic choices throughout the album. These include the guitars taking a backseat to the piano on ‘Reel Starts Again’, and the juxtaposition of an extremely distorted guitar line with gentle vocals on ’Anytime’ – both of which are executed perfectly and effortlessly.
Late-album standout ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’ is an ode to ’60s sunshine-pop, featuring Beach Boys-inspired vocal harmonies, but also accommodating for Happyness’ modern slacker-rock sensibilities, meaning the song doesn’t sound entirely like a throwback.
The album’s real masterpiece, though, is closer ‘Tunnel Vision on Your Part,’ a swirling, near-seven-minute epic with a haunting synth lead and heart-wrenching vocals. The emotion conveyed on ‘Tunnel Vision…’ is especially striking on an album that generally sounds lazy and detached. But it never abandons Happyness’ core aesthetic. In fact, the instrumental section is a testament to that aesthetic, containing some relatively straightforward guitar work that is elevated above its station. That’s just Happyness’ MO though – making high-quality music without visibly breaking a sweat.
‘Write In’ by Happyness is out now on Moshi Moshi Records.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)