Happiness is Easy CD - Badman

This is not a review of the German electronica outfit of the same name, consisting of producers Christopher Bleckmann and Hannes Wenner, but rather of a behind the scenes musico who is the mastermind here. Producer and Badman label head Dylan Magierek reportedly worked on the debut album from Portland, Oregon's Misc. for years. Misc., which is essentially a stage name for Magierek (although Daniel Ahearn, and members of American Music Club and Weinland have lent performing hands here), have released a disc that does their name justice. Happiness Is Easy is something of a collector's album, culling its cues from a musical miscellanea of genres and sub-genres, unsurprising, given the label's roster. And just as predictably, a strong indie-pop sense ties everything together. The post-punk angularity of "A Little While" mixes with a mid-nineties alternative rock arrangement, bolstered by a plaintive violin line. The cut's soaring, slightly breaking vocals by Daniel Ahearn is oddly reminiscent of Ké. Elsewhere, on the emo-abstracted ballad "Emmett Till," Ahearn tones down the dramatics, and as a result becomes even more affecting. "Such A Fighter" is a rootsy, woozy crossing of alt.country with lulling dream-pop, "Wes Anderson" is a twinkling, banjo adorned music box that somehow manages to recall both the freak-folkers and the more magical moments of Sigur Rós, and the instrumental closer "Chocolat Noir" layers pedal steel over a hushed bed of ambient processed guitar twanging, all warm and fuzzy. In fact, just about half the cuts on Happiness Is Easy are instrumentals, and while they don't compete with the songs they certainly set the mood. A cover of "Sea" doesn't speed up things any, but the ploddingly steady vocal of Low's slow-core original is delivered with a bit of welcome syncopation. Likely no more than a one-off, Magierek has made a notable record, and while there's nothing really new going on here, it's all quite listenable.

By Michael Meade




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