ACL 2012: The Happiest Music of the Year

a bowl of happinessSome may call this a guilty pleasure, but we all need happy music: joy without melancholy, cheer without irony.  These ten releases – some short, because happiness is hard to sustain – each offer listeners a brief burst of ebullience.

Musical tone is subjective.  Music that sounds happy in one section of the world may produce indifference in another, while one reviewer’s smile may be another reviewer’s frown.  The aims of this year’s list are a) to suggest that happiness and intelligence are not always exclusive; b) to promote the production of more happy music; and c) to inspire others to compile similar lists for themselves and their loved ones.

The following albums are presented in random order based on genre: happy, but not haphazard!

Son Clair ~ Birdsong (self-released)
Yes, it’s just birds, but lots of birds!  Okay, a few unobtrusive pedestrians are included, and some traffic, but mostly the sound of sweet, sweet spring.  It’s pure, it’s happy, and it’s an invitation to enjoy the great outdoors.

Review and purchase link

Fighting Lion ~ Sparkling Days, Sparkling Nights (No-Source)
This is Fighting Lion’s second tiny EP, a selection of ukulele miniatures enhanced by glockenspiel.  What could be happier?  Not much!  Of the six songs here, “setting sun” is the happiest.

Review and purchase link

Drops ~ Believe You Me (Heat Death Records)
Can you think of one instance in which handclaps made a song sound sadder?  No?  That’s because they never do!  Add a beat and some friends on remix duties (Message to Bears, Clem Leek) and the day just keeps getting better.  “You Have My Word” is the go-to track, but everything here is fun.

Review and purchase link

Keith Kenniff ~ Branches (Village Green)
Whoot!  More glockenspiels and chimes!  Just after scoring last year’s iPhone 4S commercial, Keniff returned with this further exploration of cheerful sounds. “Flow and Branch” sounds like Christmas, “Evening at Eight” like a lullaby, and numerous piano pieces come across like sunshine on snow.

Review and purchase link

Musette ~ Drape Me in Velvet (Hubro)
Sugar-coated like a Kellogg’s breakfast cereal, Drape Me in Velvet is a playground for the child within.  Musette dances through his thrift shoppe of sounds like a marionette brought to life by pixie dust.  Starting to dip from the after-effects of the Lucky Charms?  We’ll break out the candy instead.

Review and purchase link

V/A ~ Greetings from Spring Break Tapes Vol. 1 (Spring Break Tapes)
What have we here?  Oo, the sound of spring break!  Old school hip-hop beats, crisp Casios, trumpets and deep bass.  This is the best sort of label sampler: music sequenced like a mix tape, created by like-minded artists, meant to be blasted through an open car window while cruising to the beach.

Review and purchase link

Nova Robotics ~ Popola (self-released)
The retro rush continues with this four-track EP from Nova Robotics, who reference vintage New Order while adding a touch of modern synth.  If we do the Robot to these tracks, will Robbie the Robot do the Homosapien?

Review and purchase link

Dúo del Sol ~ Mirá (self-released)
Mirá is one of our site’s most-viewed reviews of the year, and for good reason.  Everything about this contagious release is appealing, from the EP’s lost at sea cover art to the duo’s Puss in Boots delivery.  Best of all, it takes only a single play to lift the spirits.

Review and purchase link

Tan Frio el Verano ~ Primavera (self-released)
Remove all the moodiness from post-rock, and what do you get?  Tan Frio el Verano.  Primavera is consistently uplifting, euphoric, positive, energetic: everything one could want at a backyard party.  These Venezuelans don’t just climb the mountain, they dance around at the top and play football.

Review and purchase link

The Velocity Raptors ~ I, Donna (self-released)
Two brief tracks of rapid-fire post-rock; by the time other tracks are entering their first interlude, both sides of this single are over.  But man, are we revved up!  Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Review and purchase link

Richard Allen

One comment

  1. Pingback: Dúo del Sol ~ hello Kaleidoscope | a closer listen

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