Odd Little Concept, Solid Debut – Happyness’s “Weird Little Birthday”

Happyness
Weird Little Birthday
Weird Smiling

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Yes, on Weird Little Birthday, Glasgow band Happyness bear an eerie similarity in places to Sparklehorse (we’re guessing Mark Linkous would be fairly astonished by the reach of his influence), and yes the accretive, shiver-bringing characteristics of Yo La Tengo creep in and take over at times (“Naked Patients,” in fact, sounds a genetic splicing of those two worthy of Mendel), and yes, one might point to easy slacker vibes waving in lazy – yet deft – Pavement shapes throughout the mix, but dammit if Happyness hasn’t made their voice their very own.

 

Loosely a concept album about a kid driven woo-woo sad and crazy jealous by having to share his birthday with not just any but THE Jesus Christ, the band expand on the promise shown by their self-titled EP released last winter with a sound at once immediate, deflective, yearnful, and sharply adrift, the structures and arrangements and artful layerings eventually revealing a shimmeringly injured persona that’s nonetheless capable of extorting beauty from its bruised heart. Opener “Baby Jesus (Jelly Boy)” melts resistance right off with a doleful electric, some treated, archly plaintive spoke-sung vox and a persuasive atmosphere of resignation and sorrow, “Regan’s Lost Weekend (Porno Queen)” is the loving and lovely grandkid Grandaddy wish they’d had, the Ed Harcourt-abetted “Pumpkin Noir” a melancholic burner baked with tension, while the boisterous “It’s On You” clears the pop palate but still can’t escape the yearn. Top marks, though, go to “Lofts,” a roaming, gently-keening ripper of a track that’s near-brutally frank yet empathetic and just about bursting with the desire to regain what’s been irretrievably lost.

Far more than the sum of its influenced parts, Weird Little Birthday fills itself out as an immensely complete record and certainly one of 2014’s more quietly brilliant debuts.

[Weird Little Birthday available on iTunes here and via Amazon here]