Happyness – Weird Little Birthday review

Credited as being in the The Sunday Times’ Top 30 Albums of the Year, the debut album Weird Little Birthday by Happyness has been gathering well deserved appreciation across both sides of the Atlantic.

Since their first gig in November 2013, the South London trio have since supported the likes of Speedy Oritz, finished two successful UK headline tours and played slots at Reading & Leeds and Wales’ Green Man Festival.  Frequent trips to the States and Europe show that Happyness are doing something right.

First self-released in June 2014, Weird Little Birthday is being re-released through Moshi Moshi Records in the UK and Bar None Records in the USA TODAY, alongside new single A Whole New Shape.

First track Baby Jesus (Jelly Boy) was recorded in the bitter cold of an abandoned church which adds an edge to the melancholic tones and the eccentricity of the lyrics that opens the album. Mostly recorded in the band’s very own Jelly Boy Studios, songs like Naked Patients showcase other elements into the mix: lofty bass lines and lo-fi guitar work wrap around shared vocal duties to an extent where your head feels like it’s wrapped up with marshmallow pillows.

The youthful fuzz pop of Orange Luz opens into the grand, atmospheric Pumpkin Noir with guest vocals from Ed Harcourt which is quite simply a beautiful side of the album.  The teenage exuberance shown on singles like It’s On You carry on the band’s style from the first EP, but Weird Little Birthday is a spectacular deliverance of different recording techniques and jumps from illustrious lo-fi ballads to surf-punk  pop songs in the vein of new Nai Harvest songs.

When an album is re-released, often a few B-sides and acoustic versions are dumped without any care. On the re-release of Weird Little Birthday, the four extra tracks sound like natural extensions to the overall record: not just continuing on the sound but further developing it. The acoustic distortion of Stop Whaling is a particular favourite, conjuring visions of Neutral Milk Hotel songs such as Songs against Sex. As a fan of NMH, I’d personally be interested in seeing Happyness practise with that sound even more.

The last bonus track A Whole New Shape is a grunge, garage rock hit in the making. Sounding like Wavves meets Weezer meets shoegaze, the single is an artful bombardment of the senses that still gives you room to focus on different parts of the song in depth to fully appreciate its scale.

Weird Little Birthday deserves every bit of praise it deserves, for this album is on its way to becoming a British classic. Every song has the potential to be a hit. Happyness are continuing their US tour throughout April, while returning home in May to shred some UK shows.

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