Happyness – 'Write In'
Happiness can take many forms of expression and can, at times, be a difficult feeling to justify; its existence can be at once fleeting and dynamic, or languid, hazy and ambivalent. On their acclaimed 2014 debut, 'Weird Little Birthday', it took on the former, but for their follow up, Happyness expand on the ambivalence of the slacker pop canon to produce a record of concentrated bliss.
A discernible claustrophobia seemed to overcome 'Weird Little Birthday', as the band’s spontaneity to commit each and every possible element of the alternative rock sound into a single album threatened to over-complicate things. Despite its refreshing stance on 90’s alternative rock, much of the record’s cohesion was lost to naivety, sounding more experimental and less observational than a full-fledged album. In remarkable contrast, 'Write In' sacrifices this claustrophobia to expand on the foundations of previous efforts and harnesses a hypnotically atmospheric new take on college rock.
While fans loyal to the South-London trio may well miss the immediacy to be found in their flirtation with 2-minute garage thrashers, there’s fun to be had in recent single ‘Bigger Glass Less Full’ which eats into the ozone of 'Write In’s' atmosphere, providing the perfect kick-start to the album’s B-side following a languid affair with ‘Uptrend/Style Raids.’ It’s a moment of urgency at the heart of a record fleshed out on all sides with tenderness; more the ripple in the pool, than the eye of the storm.
That said, Happyness continue to be at their best when they give themselves room to breathe. Having revisited and refined this element of their songcraft, the group employ piano and string arrangements to cleaned up guitar tones, and in doing so, lift the atmospheric capabilities of their sound to new dimensions, achieving a welcome breath of ecstasy on tracks like ‘Falling Down.’ It’s halfway into the album’s brooding opener, before its bed of lulling guitar patterns give way for 'Write In' to saunter into life with the haziness of waking from a daydream:
“How much better to write in, // look in to the real action, // and call my love out, // or hold back the reservation.” – ‘Falling Down’.
The track’s chorus “But I’m falling down, I’m falling down…” tugs achingly away, but is helpless to prevent the song’s ascent as it explodes into kaleidoscopic life with a crescendo of strings seeing it take flight with all the miraculous grace of a Boeing-747 soaring off into the mirage of the sun.
New tricks continue to pay dividends, too, as 'Write In' slips into something more comfortable on dreamy ‘The Reel Starts Again’, imbued with a wailing guitar solo that was made to marry summer afternoons and a make you wish they never had to end. It’s a sentiment mirrored on stand-out single, ‘Through Windows.’ Here, Happyness are the ultimate combination of their powers. When the sustained hook, “drive a car into the sun…” reaches out, you get the impression Compston and Allan aren’t singing about setting out into the horizon, but casting off into the cosmos of their very own universe forever.
“As the credits roll forever…” – ‘Tunnel Vision on Your Part’.
Replicating the haze of its introduction, ‘Tunnel Vision on Your Part’ brings the record full circle in spectacular fashion. The refrain “As the credits roll forever…” wraps you up in the belief that you and all the fleeting joys of the world are just part of some quasi-tragic movie conjured up by a higher power for their own entertainment. It’s a thoughtful reflection of the internal conflict of missed opportunity, and a more than fitting end to an album that warps time as well as this.
Such finality reflects the maturity of Happyness’ recent recordings and live performances, testament to strength of musicianship and focus; 'Write In' is the sound of a band finding their feet on a tightrope in the dark, and when they get it right, the getting is oh, so very good. They remind us that we don’t always need a reason to be happy, just to savour when we are. However it chooses to manifest itself in you, sometimes it’s enough for happiness simply just to exist - and that’s exactly the feeling you get from the journey Write In takes you on.