The world needs happy music now more than ever. At the end of an incredibly draining year, such music can restore our spirits, clearing our minds for the holidays and bolstering us with hope for the upcoming year. We all need encouragement, and there’s nothing like a peaceful melody or an upbeat phrase to freshen our thoughts. Many of these albums acknowledge difficulty before moving forward (Jilk’s “The End of Joy”, Margaret Harmer’s “Deep Sorrow”, even Lullatone’s “sometimes it’s hard to even imagine a bright side”). If dark clouds can pass over Lullatone, they can pass over anyone. But while each of these artists can see the darkness, they choose to concentrate on the light ~ which is why they were selected for this year’s list. And now, A Closer Listen presents The Happiest Music of the Year!
Chapelier Fou ~ Muance (Ici d’Ailleurs)
One of a handful of artists making a return to our happy music chart, Louis Warynski (Chapelier Fou) offers a series of upbeat pieces, dominated by electronics but decorated with organic instruments. A host of friends join him in the studio, and as a result, Muance is a thoroughly friendly experience. “Philémon” is still our favorite track, but “Stiiitches” has been sneaking up on us as well.
Gilroy Mere ~ The Green Line (Clay Pipe Music)
Nostalgia can be melancholy and bitter, or it can be thankful and kind. The Green Line represents the latter type. The album looks back on a shining time when a lime green bus brought people from the heart of London to holidays at the sea. The line may be no more, but the memories remain, casting a cool green glow that stretches further than even the buses once traveled.
Jilk ~ Joy in the End (Project Mooncircle)
The project begins in despair, but ends in joy, an honest reflection of life’s possible trajectory. When the words “Everything is going to be okay” are first spoken in “Let’s Still Be Weird Right”, we doubt them, but as they are repeated, we begin to believe. This is what we have to tell ourselves, over and over, and this album helps us to turn the corner.
Joydah ~ Jouissance (Self-Released)
It’s no surprise that an artist with this name and an album with this title were chosen for this chart. Jouissance implies transcendent joy, and this sample-heavy collage tries its best to send its listeners into a golden state of aural bliss. With hundreds of sources swirling in the mix, it’s nearly impossible to zero in on any one. But a life-affirming tone is apparent throughout this exquisite production.
Lullatone ~ Thinking About Thursdays (Self-Released)
The titles yield a sense of discovery in the tiniest of treasures: “coin operated car washes”, “reading by the pool” ~ 52 tracks, bubbling with joy. But which are the happiest of the happiest? Our nominations are “symptoms of a scatterbrain”, which bounces from speaker to speaker like a caffeinated Tigger, and “polyphonic ping pong”, the aural reflection of a frantic match.
Margaret Harmer ~ Falling Inside (Shiftingwaves)
The most sedate album on our chart, Falling Inside proves that happy sounds need not be fast nor loud. They can be as quiet as a bell or as soft as the surf. Happiness can be fleeting, but inner peace can last a lifetime, stimulating the very happiness it once stopped seeking. The album is a panacea and a balm. The candle and wine pictured on the site do not come with the purchase, but can be added at home.
Stafrænn Hákon ~ Hausi (Vogor)
The return to an all-instrumental approach pays great dividends for the Icelandic act, once solo but now a full quartet. Track after track burst with love for the land and for music itself. In the midst of a tumultuous Icelandic year, this album serves as a reminder of hope, its sparkling notes flowing like fairy dust in a cold inland stream.
Snow Palms ~ Origin and Echo (Village Green)
Marimba, metallophone and glockenspiel establish the tone of this cheery recording, which manages to embrace both post-rock and modern composition. “Circling” is the go-to track, hiding a burst of flavor at its core, like a candy one didn’t know was filled. This has been a great year for the Village Green label, and Origin and Echo should give them something to smile about over the holidays.
Twink ~ Wild Eyed Wild Ride (Self-Released)
Could this be the last Twink album? Mike Langlie’s had a long wild ride on top of the toytronica charts, and in this outing he draws a neat bow on his discography. The highlight tracks, “Wonder Wheel” and “Goldfish Prize”, are reminders of a childhood lost in time, but not in memory. The vinyl is available in candy color and green ooze. If this is how the artist goes out, he goes out strong.
Werner Urban ~ Dworzac Towarowy (Self-Released)
Dworzac Towarowy is the sound of gleefully breaking stuff ~ wine bottles, busted tires, miscellaneous debris ~ then setting it all to a dance beat. We all feel a little frustrated these days, and this is a great way to get it out. Wandering through an abandoned freight station turned out to be just the thing the artist and his girlfriend needed, and now we feel a vicarious satisfaction through their wild rumpus.
Our cover image is “symptoms of a scatterbrain”, from Lullatone’s Thinking About Thursdays!