Armed with the kind of wonky minds that lead that to writing songs about scalping popular indie musicians (Win Butler on early single ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’) and a shelf full of Sparklehorse and Wilco records, London trio Happyness naturally fit in a more atypical box than most. Though 2014 debut ‘Weird Little Birthday’ had obvious roots in the offbeat charm of Pavement and the like, it was an album that beat to its own drum, lyrically meandering through tales of resenting Jesus for having the same birthday as you and the strange humour of naked, ill bodies in all their mis-functioning glory.
While by no means abandoning this world view (‘The Reel Starts Again’ is subtitled ‘(Man As Ostrich)’: it’s fair to say there are still quirks on show), it makes the relative directness of much of follow up ‘Write In’ a whole new treat. While the likes of ‘Bigger Glass Less Full’ offer up more familiar kicks (albeit it with a fuckload of squalling distortion chucked over the top for good measure), it’s in the more classic songwriting of ‘Through Windows’ or the aforementioned ‘The Reel Starts Again’ that Happyness find a new lease of life. The former is a straight up, tender piano number with its heart on its sleeve; the latter is part Randy Newman keys, part swooning Beach Boys harmonies. Both are proof that the most unexpected thing Happyness can do is to be traditional, but they pull it off with aplomb.
Of course, there are some stranger deviations to be found too. ‘Uptrends_Style Raids’ is a crackling, six-minute wander up and down an ascending and descending guitar scale, while ‘The C Is A B A G’ takes the most effortlessly gorgeous, gentle lull of a melody and fills it with utterly impenetrable lyrics (“The C is A B A G / The sky has a film”). But overall, ‘Write In’ shows that, beneath their more leftfield influences, Happyness have it in them to be classic songwriters of considerable skill. Right on.
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