Let us begin with a simple, easy to follow tip. It is seldom a good idea to listen to people who take their grammatical cues from Will Smith Oscar Bait. Might seem like a wise move at first, but therein lies danger.
Happyness are a decent old fashioned, fuzzed out indie band, in the American sense of the genre; their style being essentially comprised of many long, drawn out jams that stretch on into the horizon. Speed and brevity are not any kinds of priority. While this has lent to a variety of dreamy, spaced out cuts in the past (‘Weird Little Birthday Girl’, ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere), it too often veers on the side indistinct and blurry, like an unfocused snapshot. Proceedings are relaxed and uncomplicated; lilting lullabies to soothe the savage hipster. It’s an easy trick, and one that they’ve been doing well for several years. Unsurprisingly, their new LP Write In is more of the same. Serviceable and, indeed, very enjoyable, but unfortunately neither groundbreaking or exciting.
If you’ve been a fan of the trio or their contemporaries, then this is a will be a more than comfortable experience It’s not flashy or overproduced. It’s straightforward, exactly what it says on the tin spaced out rock music,which can regularly be just what the doctor has ordered. The elements of shoegaze and shameless amount of Pavement and Yo La Tengo loyalty work in Write In‘s favour for the most part with ‘Anytime’, ‘Bigger Glass Less Full’ and ‘Falling Down’ mixing breezy summer pop with layers of fuzz and Kevin Shields. Each of them is a prime candidate for Pitchfork’s ‘Best New Songs’ and nothing here would be out-of-place in an ironically titled indie rock Spotify playlist.
With that said there are some moments of real intrigue. ‘Through Windows’ is the most interesting piece on the record. A droll baritone spars with a hazy wail over a tidy piano, effortlessly floating through its duration, reaching a beautiful, weightless crescendo. It feels as though we’re ascending skyward against our wills. This song unquestionably belongs to Happyness, with all the hallmarks that define their sound being very much present. In the context of Write In‘s unfortunate lack of variety, it’s a breath of fresh air. The trio show a willingness here to tinker with their trick and make it fit in a different form. The central melody is gorgeous and those dueling vocals are a stroke of real genius. One wonders then, why they did not think to do that more throughout the album and allow themselves to experiment?
At its worst, this LP is basically a single idea repeated ten times with minor differences. Drop yourself at anywhere in the 45-minute runtime and you’re feeling around in the dark for a light. Little stands out or makes any lasting impression. What you end up taking away from the record is little more than a distinct, unmistakable whiff of tentativeness, something that hopefully the clearly talented trio will be able to evolve from in the future. Worse still, you really can’t hold anything against the album for its failing to deliver because it’s all delivered just enough. It’s unfortunate that it’s just unsatisfying enough to illicit a shrug and little else. Will Murphy