I’ve been tentative to embrace the lazy, hazy indie-rock that has been popping up left, right and centre in recent times. I never got Beach House. I wanted to, believe me, but they just never tickled my goose. We all loved the XX, briefly, then realised that they weren’t actually all they cracked up to be. The raspy vocals and lo fi backing became a bit old after a while. It just took itself too seriously (to put it mildly).
As so often happens, however, my stubborn opinion met a contrary force. That force was Cigarettes After Sex, a Brooklyn based ambient pop group. The groups leader, Greg Gonzalez, recorded their first EP in the stairway of his university in El Paso, Texas. The result was like something recorded in a grotto by the sea, dripping with light reverberation and infused with lazy sensuality. The lyrics could be scenes from a John Hughes movie, dreamy sequences with a biting edge. “When we dance in my living room/To that silly ’90s R&B/When we have a drink or three/Always ends in a hazy shower scene.”
I had found a way in to the niche (or not so niche as the case may be) scene of drawling sentences and minimal production. So commenceth my search for any kind of original parallel to these hipster magicians. My search led me across the pond back to my hometown, London. There I found Happyness, both literally and proverbially. Happyness are a South London trio, who found their inception in what they call a “classic story”. Just a couple of mates doing shitty covers at shitty venues quote, “trying to impress their friends”. They soon realised that this was not their path and decided instead to isolate themselves in search of a musical Holy Grail.
What they found was a mixture of the tongue-in-cheek 90s indie pop that they grew up with and the newer dream-pop that I used to be so adverse to. They’ve been compared to Wilco, Weezer and Yo La Tengo, whose producer actually produced their most recent album. Their lyrics set them apart from the cheese-filled records of the XX and other such bands. They bring a sarcastic British edge to the age-old stories of introverted guys finding themselves way out of their comfort zones.
But the absolute clincher is their witty references. Their triumphant track “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere” has the awarding-winning line: “I’m wearing Win Butlers hair, there’s a scalpless singer of a Montreal rock band somewhere.” These guys referenced fucking ARCADE FIRE. How did I not come up with that?! It’s these kind of Wilde-esque witticisms that make this American sounding band so essentially British.
So Happyness is what dreampop really needs. Some straight up guys making straight up music that can actually look at itself and go: “LOL we’re just a bunch of mopheads learning how to play the electric guitar.” Like Mac Demarco before them, they have worked out a way to make music by essentially fucking around with a record. But what they produce is far from mindless. It’s a gritty portrayal of life as a young nobody trying to make sense of living. And just like teenagers, they know exactly how to take the piss.