ACL 2013: The Happiest Music of the Year

glenn-jones-my-garden-stateWhen last year’s list was published, it wasn’t very popular.  But over the course of the year, the hits kept increasing, until it became our number one specialty list.  Why?  Because people need happy music, and search for it online.

Life can be brutish, and short.  So why not balance the melancholy with a touch of joy?  This is music to cheer the soul, to motivate the body, to provide the courage to get out of bed, to write the novel, to win the game.  Call it the daylight of the soul.  We need this sort of music, and we’re happy to know it’s here.

We hope the following selection of music makes you smile, laugh, breathe a sigh of relief.  There’s a lot of goodness in the world, and this is its soundtrack.

The Black Twig Pickers ~ Rough Carpenters (Thrill Jockey)
Rough Carpenters is the sound of a country hoedown, along with washboard and harmonica, sweet tea in mason jars and bare feet on fresh grass.  These good ‘ol boys are building a house made of gold, and we’d love to hang out with them there.

Review and purchase link

Fighting Lion ~ A Convenient Place (Flaming Pines)
Appearing here for the second year in a row, this time with his third EP, Álvaro Menéndez continues to make us smile with his tiny ukulele tracks.  And we do mean tiny; with seven tracks in eleven minutes, A Convenient Place is shorter than a siesta, but it’s just as energizing.

Review and purchase link

Glenn Jones ~ My Garden State (Thrill Jockey)
In addition to boasting some of the year’s happiest music, My Garden State also bears the year’s happiest cover, which is why we chose it for this feature.  Just look at that happy shamrock!  His audience may be a lone bird, but he doesn’t care; he’s content to finger-pick the day away.

Review and purchase link

Haiku Salut ~ Tricolore (How Does It Feel to Be Loved?)
Accordion, glockenspiel, trumpet, drumsticks and more add up to an ebullient tone on this fully-fledged debut album, recorded in the middle of two EPs.  This is the sound of confidence and fun, with a wink, a smile and a dob of sass.

Review and purchase link

Henry the Rabbit ~ Earthen Birth by Henry the Rabbit (Moon Glyph)
Craig Martin Wood’s “psychedelic ukulele skiffle” is immediately endearing, as is the title.  We can’t resist calling this blurb “The Blurb of Earthen Birth by Henry the Rabbit, by Henry the Rabbit.”  The sun, the moon, the rabbit, the fish: all creation is in a good mood as long as this tape keeps playing.

Review and purchase link

Human Pyramids ~ Planet Shhh! (Oxide Tones)
Perhaps the happiest post-rock album ever made, Planet Shhh! is a blast of pure joy, replete with catchy riffs, glockenspiel, and an outdoor party vibe.  It’s music for jumping up and down, driving really fast (but legally) and hugging friends (but not at the same time).

Review and purchase link

Lullatone ~ Summer Songs/Falling for Autumn (Self-released)
Hands-down THE happiest music of the year, Lullatone’s summer and autumn EPs are like shots of espresso, stuffed in cupcakes and covered in chocolate sauce and sprinkles, on a bed of brown sugar, next to a batch of fresh-baked cookies, a glass of milk and a margarita.  The next two installments are already the ones to beat for The Happiest Music of 2014.

Review and purchase link ~ Summer Songs

Review and purchase link ~ Falling for Autumn

Nienvox ~ Space Castles, Love Songs (Fuselab)
Surf rhythms and a laid-back vibe permeate this beat-driven album, the first physical full-length for both Nienvox and Fuselab.  The fact that it was released during the first week of 2013 only gave us that much more time to enjoy it; and as the year draws to a close, it still sounds fresh.

Review and purchase link

Public Service Broadcasting ~ Inform Educate Entertain (Self-released)
Ambient, rock, post-rock, electronic, plunderphonic, and country music weave their way throughout this fascinating debut album, which places all topics on equal ground: television, exploration, fashion, war.  The album inspired half a dozen singles, and we couldn’t resist it.

Review and purchase link

Weerthof ~ Out of Control (esc.rec)
We can pretty much guarantee that if you make an album using the sounds of toothbrushes, roosters, faucets and kazoos, put it on a USB stick and cook it into a bar of soap, you’re going to make this list.  But if you’re not Weerthof, please don’t copy him ~ come up with your own idea!

Review and purchase link

Richard Allen

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