The picks below are great accompaniment for road trips and beach trips, playground games and tailgate parties. Some are perfect for children, while others are geared for adults. It may seem easy to dismiss such music as facile, but great complexity is often present; many of these artists have stared into the abyss and come out laughing. In an often difficult world, it’s wonderful to be reminded that sometimes things turn out okay.
And now, in alphabetical order, A Closer Listen presents the Happiest Music of 2014.
Busto Power Trio ~ The Deal (Self-released)
Spaghetti westerns, surf music and power punk combine on this swift EP, billed as “music for villains” by the London trio. The sleekness of the songs is like the slicked-back hair of a playful antagonist, who is just as likely to crack a joke as to steal a painting.
Chapelier Fou ~ Deltas (Ici d’ailleurs)
As we noted in our review, the kaleidoscopic cover says it all. Bright tones dance among sprightly beats, and there’s nary a whiff of melancholy to be found. Louis Warynski’s third album may be complex, but it belies a deep simplicity.
Huma-Huma ~ Theme Songs for Invisible Motion Pictures (Self-released)
Watching the video shows us just how much these friends are having; Huma-Huma loves what they do, and it shows. The collective’s latest album shines a spotlight on a select few of its 400+ tracks, which are labelled with multiple tags for the convenience of searchers. Even the sad tracks sound happy.
Lullatone ~ while winter whispers (Self-released)
The titles are part of the appeal: “an ode to eaten snowflakes”, “shaken like a snow globe”, “falling asleep with a book on your chest”. Lullatone’s series of season-themed releases celebrates the tiny treasures of life: little wonders, cherished moments, joyous gifts.
Mariano Rodriguez ~ Praise the Road (Grass-Tops Recording)
The fretboard, the banjo, the tabla, the road. Why not pack everything? Mariano Rodriguez clearly enjoys his journey, and his relaxed demeanor is contagious. When listening, one looks forward to stopping at the country farms and chatting with the local bakers. This is home-spun music that is meant to be played no matter what the destination.
One and Seven Eighths ~ Modern Camping Songs (Self-released)
Ashley Cole and Graham McElroy have made one of the most instantly endearing albums of the year, one that might serve as an alternative soundtrack to Moonrise Kingdom. All of the perils and pleasures of camp are here, from setting up a tent to popping a cold one to panicking over a lost object or sudden snap. The themed nature of the release ties it together like a bundle of campfire sticks.
smileswithteeth ~ Everyday Always (Self-released)
To smile with teeth is either to threaten or disarm; Gabriel Gutierrez’ style is the latter. “It’s about being nice to people as much as making music,” he writes. This kind collection has plenty of time for little moments, the most endearing being the father and child exchange on “Scrunchie”. It’s a splash!
Twink ~ Happy Houses (Twink Tones)
Mike Langlie might be the only artist who aspires to be on our Happiest Music chart, but this album was a lock from the get-go. It fits the artist’s persona, as he’s cultivated the toytronica mini-genre to perfection. With sugar this sweet, the kids are bound to come running; but the inner child within us responds as well.
Waking Aida ~ Eschaton (Self-released)
Easily the happiest post-rock album of the year (and that’s saying a lot!), Eschaton exudes ebullience, with soaring strings, harmonic horns, and a sense of summer. It was the perfect album for our mid-summer road trip, but it still sounds great in the cold.
Whizz Kid ~ There’s Conjuring to Be Done (Bearsuit)
With fife and drums and a languid vibe, There’s Conjuring to Be Done is like a summer vacation of sand boxes and plastic pails. J-Kane and Yo-Yo Nielsen conjure up a collection of sweet childhood memories on this happy set, which includes the suddenly timely “Kid Santa. It’s never the wrong season for toys.