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South London trio Happyness arrived onto the scene to warm reviews and critical acclaim in 2014 with their debut LP Weird Little Birthday, an album so in thrall to 90’s US slacker and college rock that If you didn’t know where the band were from, you would never have guessed it. The band, comprising of multi-instrumentalists Jon EE Allan and Benji Compston, along with Ash Cooper (drums), certainly lived up to their name delivering a delightful feast of blissful, carefree alt-rock.
Returning with their sophomore album, Write In, the template has not been altered drastically. Like their debut, this record was self-produced with the same gear and mixer in their own studio. The affectionately titled “Jelly Boy Studios” was located over an abandoned bookshop and the building has since been reduced to rubble.
Those looking for a bit of bite to their music might best be advised to look elsewhere. The guitars are jangly and meandering rather than spiky, the keyboards, when present, are melancholic and plangent, the percussion is swampy and loose. While the ten songs on here may not exactly command attention, the musicianship is constantly excellent and the 45 minutes breeze on by.
The intro to album opener, the mid-tempo ‘Falling Down’, is a gorgeous, mazy weave of Wilco-esque guitars and sets the tone for everything else that follows. The lyrics are quite difficult to discern and cryptic to decipher when you do manage to pick them out – “Oh to lose with your base ideals, Mixing in the true light of the hollow fear”. This is a recurring theme throughout, thus relegating them somewhat to secondary status but the melodies are always strong enough to make that unimportant.
Mournful keyboards underpin both ‘The Reel Starts Again (Man as Ostrich)’ and ‘Through Windows’. The former is accentuated by somber slide and woozy lead guitars and the repetitive line “In your hotel, honey, I forget”. The latter is a touching downbeat number with intermittent wonky synths with Allan and Compston exchanging breathy vocals.
There are, however, some interesting and welcome changes in direction. The dovetailing, sinewy guitars on ‘Uptrend / Style Raids’ sound like a sedated Television or a hazy Real Estate. As the song fades out, some disconcerting horns are briefly introduced which really give it a kick. It’s as close to an epic as the trio are likely to get. There are echoes of grunge revivalists Yuck on ‘Bigger Glass Less Full’, a two minute slalom ride through fuzzed out distortion and screeching guitars.
Elsewhere, ‘Anytime’ is a slice of sunny shoegaze while ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’ is a chugging alt-rock number. Towards the end of the album, the pace slackens off noticeably. The crawling ‘The C is A B A G’ sees some more cryptic lyrics (“The C is A B A G, and the sky has a film”) before ‘Tunnel Vision On Your Part’ gently but expertly winds proceedings down.
The easiest of easy listening, this is a record to turn on and tune out to, the mellow vibes making it Ideal background music for this summer’s barbecue (if we’re lucky) out the back garden.