Happyness – Write In (Album Review)

It’s very rare that the name of an artist will succinctly summarise its sound, yet that is just what Happyness manages to accomplish. Having previously established itself as a widely regarded lord of hazy post-Grunge, the band has returned with second album Write In – a release that sees the band change into something looser.

From the second the first guitar swirl echoes out in opening track ‘Falling Down’, it’s immediately apparent that something has changed in the two years since Happyness’ debut in 2015. Where once the tones were either intensely fuzzy or mildly crunchy, now the sound has dissipated into an ethereal hum. In many ways, it feels like Happyness has started to dissolve and is embracing a more dreampop-inspired sound. Yet despite this shift in sound, the band holds onto the essence of what makes it special.

Take ‘Anytime’, for example. The incessant chug of fuzzy guitars harks and the rumbling bassline brings the same kind of intensity that Happyness managed on its debut, but obscures it from view with a dreamy wall of sound and a more tender vocal. That tenderness is the cornerstone of Write In‘s sound. Whether it’s through the less abrasive guitar tones on ‘Victor Lazzaro’s Heart’ or the raspily whispered voice that delivers smooth lyrical on ‘Uptrend’, Happyness is keen to let its softer side show this time around. The band even goes as far as launching into a classical piano-led ballad on ‘Through Windows’, though this is complemented and contradicted by psychedelic drums and a Velvet Underground-esque vocal.

But none of this should be seen as Happyness completely giving up on the angsty abrasion that was previously prominent. Two tracks, ‘Bigger Glass Less Full’ and ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’, appear on the album to remind listeners exactly what the band is capable of. While the latter delivers typically rock-leaning tones in a way reminiscent of Band of Horses, ‘Bigger Glass Less Full’ is the real powerhouse of the album. Enveloped in fuzzy distortion and propelled by a relentless urgency, it’s the band’s only real nod to recklessness. On an album where everything else feels meditated and coolly calculated, it’s a disarming wildcard.

As the album cascades into the depths of melancholy with disenchanted chants of “…as the credits roll forever”, there can be no doubt that Write In is less an album than it is a transformative experience for Happyness and the listener alike. The band may have established itself in the camp of alternative-rock, but it’s taking a journey into new musical pastures to find new ways of making audiences content. While die-hard fans of the debut album might consider this a bit of a let down, it’s a moment of change for Happyness that may lead us to pure bliss in the coming years.

Write In is out on April 7th via Moshi Moshi.

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