Tag Archive | "Happyness"

Happyness – Write In

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Happyness – Write In

Posted on 05 April 2017 by Joe

Happyness’ 2013 debut Weird Little Birthday was a perfect collection of 1990s US indie rock inspired tracks, that garnered a 9/10 review from this website.

It’s taken four years to release the follow up and since then they have expanded their palette, beyond their staple influence of the US College Rock scene, to take in the 1970s, with a few nods to Big Star, and 1960s psychedelia in particular. There’s also a softer, more relaxed tone in the main to this new collection.

Happyness-Write-In-Packshot-1483729747-640x640

To add to the musical points of reference further, if Weird Little Birthday is akin to Teenage Fanclub’s distorted melodic debut A Catholic Education, this sounds more like Grand Prix.

This is particularly the case on openers Falling Down and The Reel Starts Again (Man as Ostrich), which wouldn’t be out of place on those glorious early 90s Teenage Fanclub albums.

By Through Windows and Uptrend_Style Raids though they’ve dipped further back in time to the 1960s, with this pair of Beatles-esque psychedelic numbers.

They then bask in the glow of the US indie scene one again, with the Dinosaur Jnr inspired Bigger Glass Less Full.

In many ways this is a typical second album, with elements of a stunning debut coupled with signs of a band wanting to go in new directions.

As a result, while all tracks are enjoyable, it feels uneven as it darts across the decades and influences, like a bridge between two albums rather than an end product in its own right.

Write In, which was recorded in their own studio for £500, also lacks the killer hooks of Weird Little Birthday’s best, such as the butt kicking single Its On You

If they continue sticking to the form book, that say The Clash mastered – a killer debut, OK follow up then masterpiece –  then Happyness’ third album will be their London Calling.

For now though this second release offers a reminder of how good there were at the start and glimpses of how much better they are going to be.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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The Great Escape 2015

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The Great Escape 2015

Posted on 23 May 2015 by Dorian

Any festival is only as good as your viewing choices, and this is especially true of a multi-venue festival such as The Great Escape. If you choose to watch some of the not-so-great acts, missing out on better acts elsewhere, then you have nobody to blame but yourself. However, if you take random(ish) choices as an overall guide then I think it is unlikely that this 10th anniversary Great Escape will go down as one of the vintage years.

Very little stood out as being particularly new or different this year, and a lot of acts were so middle of the road that the whole thing was in danger of becoming a traffic accident. Nothing I saw hit the highs of Parquet Courts or Phosphorescent from previous years and although one of the best live acts I’d previously seen at the festival, Django Django, were playing it was their third appearance here and nothing to get excited about.

My underlying sense of ‘meh’ with the weekend was probably caused by a combination of jet lag and a reaction to a band as bad as The Vaccines being the festivals secret special announcement. I have no desire to be a killjoy, and everyone else I’ve spoken to loved the weekend, so in the spirit of positivity here are some of my personal highlights.

Happyness

Happyness

Happyness released one of the best albums of last year and are one if the most likeable live acts I’ve seen in a long time. Their catchy homage to the best bits of 90s indie rock sounds as good as ever in a cramped Sticky Mike’s and the non-album tracks they play have me itching for their next release.

Saycet

Saycet

Slightly sombre European electronica is something that you are always guaranteed at the Great Escape, and this year was no exception. The Unitarian Church is one of the more reserved venues on the circuit, but it was a good match for French duo Saycet. This wasn’t a hugely upbeat affair, but it sounded pretty good to an attentive audience.

Son of Bill

Sons of Bill

A listing error meant that a trip to check out Popstrangers, in the recently branded Hub, actually meant a set by Sons of Bill. This was the cause of some confusion to those expecting antipodean pop and getting some guitar heavy US country rock. For those that were there by mistake it turned out to be a happy accident as quality playing and appealing tunes made this a very satisfying way to spend the afternoon.

C Duncan

C Duncan

C Duncan may sport some unwise facial hair, but his likeable tunes and genial performance more than make up for it. His performance is a little low-key, and it is hard to tell exactly where his career will go from this show, but he is definitely somebody to put on the “ones to watch” list. Brighton’s own Fatcat records saw enough in the classically trained Scot to sign him up and I’ll personally be keeping an eye on his progress.

Get Inuit

Get Inuit

I’m not somebody who cares hugely about originality, borrowing is an essential part of pop music, but I do wonder why you’d wear the Weezer glasses if you sound this much like Weezer. And when Get Innuit don’t sound like Weezer they sound like Cloud Nothings, another band with a singer that sports Buddy Holly specs. Eyewear decisions aside they sound pretty good and it is a really fun set of songs, and if you are going to have obvious influences I can think or worse places to start.

SLUG

SLUG

SLUG are the work of Field Music bass player Ian Black and their debut album was good enough to lift them above the side-project category and establish them on the festival list for 2015. The songs are great and Ian Black is a surprisingly gifted front-man with a great voice and some proper axe-an skills. The backing band are uniformly great, featuring both Brewis brothers, and the whole set sounds wonderful. I’m already looking forward to seeing them play again at the Green Man festival in August.

Ralegh Long

Ralegh Long

The Independent Label Market held in the Open Market was not as huge success, and footfall for the labels who set up stalls was disappointing. I hope that this feature of the festival is repeated next year, but some thought from festival organisers on how to get crowds down this end of town is needed if it is repeated. It was also disappointing for the acts that played on the market stage throughout the afternoon, with only a handful of passers-by stopping to watch some quality sets. However, for me it was great to see the guys from Gare Du Nord on their stand and Ralegh Long’s songs (accompanied by Jack Hayter) sound great even if there isn’t the biggest audience to hear them.

Low Pines

Low Pines

One great feature of the festival is getting to hear live music in a wide range of venues, some that I don’t visit at any other time of year. Something new for me in 2015 was getting to see the Brighton Museum used as a setting for a range of acoustic acts. I was largely bemused by the popularity of openers, the Dunwells, who got the biggest applause of the evening. They clearly had some talent, but they looked and sounded just like a group you’d see getting voted out in the later rounds of the X-Factor and they left me pretty cold. Much better was the soft folk of Low Pines and the endearingly cute Japanese pop duo Moumoon who provided one of the most charming sets of the weekend.

The risk of a multi-venue event like this, with so many acts and so many styles, is that you’ll not always see the best it has to offer. This year I don’t think I saw the best of the festival, but I still saw enough great music to make the time worthwhile. The Great Escape is still one of the best value musical events in the country and I’ll be back again next year searching the venues for something extra special.

By Dorian Rogers

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Avi Buffalo and Happyness – Thekla, Bristol (Oct 8, 2014)

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Avi Buffalo and Happyness – Thekla, Bristol (Oct 8, 2014)

Posted on 09 October 2014 by Joe

Bands should never try and replicate their recorded work on stage. It rarely works. Foals were the worst offenders I’ve seen, a band who note for note can faithfully recreate each album with precision. A few songs in during a festival set a few years back I almost drifted off.  Avi Buffalo on the other hand offer something different live and as a result offer a far more captivating experience.

Avi Buffalo

Avi Buffalo

The Californian band are here aboard Bristol’s floating venue Thekla as part of a European tour to promote their excellent second album At Best Cuckold. It’s an album full of beautiful sunny pop by frontman and songwriter Avi Zahner-Isenberg as well as very precise well worked guitar parts and even a horn section in places. Live though they strip it back, Just Zahner-Isenberg’s guitar, keyboards to fill out the sound a bit and drums and bass. Nothing fancy. This gives each song from At Best Cuckold a new, welcome take.

At times the live experience significantly improves on the recorded version. Oxygen Tent, the set closer, is the prime example. This track passed me by a little on disc. Live I thought it was a Randy Newman cover, so good is the songwriting. The guitar break out towards the end has gone from just okay on  disc to simply awesome on stage.

avi 2

Another highlight was  Zahner-Isenberg’s solo middle section, with an excellent Fender Stratocaster and vocal only version of Summer Cum, from their self titled debut album. At Best Cuckold tracks Two Cherished Understandings and Overwhelmed with Pride then follow exquisitely just with acoustic guitar and later keyboards added in.

Of course they play What’s It in For, their first single and most recognisable track. But when this once would have been greeted with whoops here the crowd know their best work is in the here and now on their latest album not the past.

As the set progresses, which fitted expertly into an hour precisely, the band’s confidence clearly grows and the banter flows more freely. By the encore of She Is Seventeen, Zahner-Isenberg offers to be everyone’s “best friend at the merch stall, well for tonight anyway.”

Happyness

Happyness

Support was from Happyness, a band that mine the memory banks of aged indie kids everywhere to give a little bit of Pavement, a little bit of Sparklehorse and a little bit of Teenage Fanclub. Here with a fine album of their own to promote, Weird Little Birthday, their half an hour set feels far too short. It’s not just the quality of songs like the pop of Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste the Same, it’s also their attitude that warmed the crowd.

They remind me of Mclusky, the great Welsh band who took apart the often ludicrous life of being in a band so expertly.  Like them Happyness also take out all the pretension and offer you exactly what they are – a band who like playing live, within their “allotted time” to an audience who they hope will visit them at the merchandise stall later. Their humour is dry and may not appeal to all, but for this audience it went down a storm.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

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Green Man Festival 2014

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Green Man Festival 2014

Posted on 19 August 2014 by John Haylock

Prior to any festival, is it me or does every song you hear on the radio seem relevant to the possible weather options awaiting you? In the week before Greenman I unfortunately heard amongst many, Only Happy When It Rains by Garbage, She Brings the Rain by Can and Before the Flood by Bob Dylan.

Were these dreadful cosmic portents ? Or just unfounded climate based fears? Fortunately the latter, because apart from a little rain on Sunday morning it was unusually fantastic weather for Wales.

HGman

A sold out, grinning crowd of 20,000 descended like hippy bees to the musical honeypot that is the Greenman Festival, greedily anticipating the honey/music analogy I’m trying uselessly to express. Another line up of mind melting music awaited the faithful. Tent up, boots on, beer ready, let’s go.

Starting with some laid back beats from Babe in the Walled Garden, this act were kicked asunder by some kick-arse-moody-quiet-loud sonic mayhem from our Neonfiller.com favourite Happyness. They probably frightened a few of the more sedate members of the Walled Garden community, who were ensconced in deckchairs and seemed to think they were at the seaside.

Happyness

Happyness

Later in the evening Tuung were a revelation. They played a set of joyous, happy-clappy pop that was reminiscent of The Go Betweens. Tuung hadn’t played here for seven years, and were received mightily as they performed the the aural equivalent  of a chocolate box of love (minus the horrible coffee creams). Been here six hours, mind blown already.

Hailing from North Carolina, supercool skinny guy in shades, Jonathon Wilson and his band, cherry pick beauties from his first two solo efforts. Both albums of his proving conclusively that he’s one of the best singer-songwriters currently on the scene. Most impressive tonight were his rendition of Desert Raven with it’s lovely, lilting melody and his stunning lengthy version of Valley of the Silver Moon, complete with a staggering guitar solo that could have melted the South Polar ice shelf. Another name to be to added to the great pantheon of West coast, Laurel Canyon luminaries.

On the other hand Mark Kozelek and his band Sun Kil Moon, who’s current album Benji is the latest instalment in a body of work that goes back to the 1990s when he was the frontman for the Red House Painters, proved to be slightly disappointing. Kozelek writes confessional lyrics that can bring you to tears. It is unfortunate then, that where he usually surrounds himself with an acoustic backdrop in the studio, this afternoon the band want to be Metallica, the mix is too far in favor of the instrumentation when it should be the other way round, his vocals are barely audible in the sound man’s migraine of recorded sound. Oh well, let’s move on.

Toy only have one song. Fortunately it’s not that bad even if it feels like it goes on for five days. Better by far were the much lauded Policia. Access into the Far Out Tent for their set was impossible without a crane and winch. It was absolutely rammed and rightly so due to their polished and well executed happy Portishead vibe. The Augustines, however, are the polar opposite. Brash American, anthemic-punk, full of bravado but unfortunately not full enough to keep me from my bed as this correspondent collapsed from exhaustion and combined white wine overdose only to be awoken at 2am by what appeared to be The Ministry Of Sound next door, kids nowadays etc.

Angel Olson

Angel Olson

Saturday saw tremendous performances by the tiny Angel Olsen. Don’t be fooled by her demeanor, you wouldn’t get into a fight with Angel, not if her lyrics and psychotic country and western stage presence are anything to go by. Also covered by the word ‘riveting’ was Sharon Van Etten, slightly more rocky and atmospheric than Angel but equally fabbo.

My annual ‘ getting blown away by someone you’ve never of’ moment came at teatime as I strolled past the Cinema tent. Inside playing against a ludicrously trippy montage of images and films were a three piece called Thought Forms. If you like the Acid Mothers or Ride or Sonic youth or just the sound of out of control visceral guitars crashing into skyscrapers at 500 mph this was it. They’re from Bath, they’ve been going 10 years and are incredible.

Also on Saturday the beautiful Viv Albertine was interviewed in the literature tent, she has an incredible story to tell. An original member of the first all girl punk rock group The Slits, she recounted tales that were funny, frank, and touching of her formative years hanging around with the Sex Pistols and The Clash. She spoke of her band and all the shit they had to put up with over the years, her battle with cancer and 10 years of IVF treatment. It’s all documented in excruciatingly painful detail in her autobiography ‘Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Boys, Boys’. Go buy a copy of ‘Cut’ the slits debut as well, it still sounds fresh as a punk daisy. Just a lovely, lovely lady.

War on Drugs

War on Drugs

War on Drugs and Mercury Rev were a headlining double whammy of mellow psychedelia. The former have changed beyond recognition since their last appearance a couple of years ago, embracing a more upbeat, throbbing, euphoric guitar driven, Byrdsian vibe. But as good as they were though, Mercury Rev had the edge and were just stunning as they recreated their 1998 opus ‘Deserters songs’. Led by their enigmatic frontman John Donahue, they were uplifting and heroic, heartbreaking and delirious and a perfect end to a perfect day.

Sunday, and a sprinkling of rain slowly gives way to increasing sunshine, the phreaks emerge from their womb like tents, bleary eyed and dazed and confused we do it all over again, but everybody experiences the Sunday at Greenman slowly, in a haze, there’s no rush, take it easy maaan.

Mercury Rev

Mercury Rev

A lovely way to wake up was in the presence of an all Welsh band called 9 Bach. They sing in Welsh as well but it is no barrier, indeed it only emphasized the ethereal nature of the music. Think Clannad but a GOOD Clannad. In the afternoon Nick Mulvey drew down the ghosts of acoustic Gods John Martyn and Nick Drake with his lovely, delicate and often percussive guitar stylings. Rains in the Walled Garden rocked gently but with great aplomb, Other Lives from Oklahoma were perfect for a balmy sunny Sunday playing dustbowl folk blues with great passion.

I got attacked by Wilma Flintstone at teatime, said goodbye to Marvel comics next potential superhero ‘Incontinent Battered sausage woman’, got a slight migraine courtesy of Anna Calvi and her incessant screaming guitar, had some more crumpets, finished of the Bourbon, missed Bill Callaghan, had a go on Oxford university’s astronomical telescope in Einstein’s Garden, saw far too little of The Deep Throat Choir and for some apparent reason bought a tin of HP baked beans. Greenman you spoiled us (again), can you do it again next year please?!

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

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Alternative Top 40 – Summer 2014

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Alternative Top 40 – Summer 2014

Posted on 31 July 2014 by Universal Horse

The Alternative Top 40 is a regular music chart shared across multiple music blogs, and a great way of discovering music you might not have heard elsewhere. We are delighted to be among those blogs involved in sharing this list, which is created from nominations from you and compiled by the website Universal Horse.

To contribute to the next #AltTop40 all you have to do is suggest your favourite tracks of the moment to Universal Horse via their online form – or email them at alternativetop40@gmail.com by Saturday 4th October. Here’s this month’s edition:

1. Jack Adaptor – Get It Right First Time

Get-it-Right-First-Time-packshot

2. Noura Mint Seymali – Tzenni

3. Hazel Winter – YDFLM

4. Swans – She Loves Us

5. Lana del Rey – West Coast

6. Parquet Courts – Bodies Made Of

7. Rabit – Red Candles

Boxed Vol. 2 by Rabit

8. Jemima Surrender – My Little Brother

9. St Vincent – Your Lips Are Red

10. Kogumaza – NB / Kолокол / Ursids

L&S025 Kолокол LP by Kogumaza

11. Patrick Duff – Thought Birds / +
12. SJ Esau – Frustrating / +
13. Fingersnap – Blackbirds / +
14. Tune-Yards – Gangsta / +
15. Alicia Catling – Mighty Fine / +
16. Laurel Halo – Supersymmetry / +
17. Sia – Chandelier / +
18. Julie Fowlis – Ged a Sheol Mi Air M’aineol / +
19. Bob Mould – The War / +
20. Marilyn Manson – Disposable Teens / +
21. Happyness – Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste the Same / +
22. Daisy Victoria – Macbeth to my Lady / +
23. Tape Waves – Looking at the Sun / +
24. Roddy Frame – Postcard / +
25. Steve Mason – All Come Down/ +
26. Robert Plant – Little Maggie / +
27. SJ Esau – Soul II Skull / +
28. Carla Bozulich – Lazy Crossbones / +
29. FKA Twigs – Two Weeks / +
30. Jemima Surrender – Anathema / +
31. Michael O’Neill – Cheetham Hill Speed Scene / +
32. Melt Yourself Down – Fix My Life / +
33. Mankind – Blood Sugar / +
34. Shacklock Meth Party – Johnny B Goode/ +
35. Manic Street Preachers – Europa Geht Durch Mich / +
36. Patrick Duff – Maria / +
37. Tune-Yards – Left Behind / +
38. Path – Apocalyptica feat. Sandra Nasic / +
39. Camper van Beethoven – It Was Like That When We Got Here / +
40. Archie Bronson Outfit – In White Relief / +

Compiled by Universal Horse.

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Happyness – Weird Little Birthday

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Happyness – Weird Little Birthday

Posted on 24 July 2014 by Dorian

Weird Little Birthday is the debut album from London based trio Happyness, and it is quickly establishing itself as my favourite debut of the year so far, and possibly my favourite album this year full-stop. I had previously heard the Pavement indebted  ‘Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste the Same’ on 6 Music and knew that this was a band I could easily get behind.

Weird Little Birthday

What this isn’t is a band that sees being wildly original as one of their core selling points. When I listen to this album I hear Pavement, I hear Beulah and I hear Sparklehorse, I hear the essence of 1990’s US alt-rock. What you think about Happyness will be heavily framed by your thoughts on those bands and that era of music. My personal response is that I love those bands, and they aren’t going to be releasing any new records, so why not embrace it?

Yes it is true that the opening track ‘Baby, Jesus (Jelly Boy)’ is so close to Sparklehorse that it veers dangerously towards pastiche, but it just avoids that and is a great track in its own right.

Happyness are wise with their song selection and track ordering on this album, varying the sound enough to keep the album exciting but consistent enough to develop an identity. Given the clear influences on show this is no mean feat and it bodes very well for the band on any future releases.

It takes confidence on a debut album to stick a quiet nine minute nearly-instrumental track (‘Weird Little Birthday Girl’) in the middle of an album, and follow it up with a classic three minute pop single (‘It’s in You’). And an album that quotes prefab Sprout’s ‘Cars and Girls’ is a winner with me any day of the week.

This is a feel good album, despite some pretty downbeat tracks, and one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard in a long time.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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