Are you ready for some holiday cheer that has naught to do with the holidays? After sifting through thousands of albums, we believe we’ve found the happiest music of 2019! This is music for playpens, for beaches, for the open road: for making snowmen and sandcastles; for dancing alone and with friends; and most of all, for bringing smiles to the faces of those who hear it. Some of the music is calm and some is caffeinated, but all of it is happy. Sometimes we just need a breather, and this is what happy music is all about: an instant mood-booster. But be warned: if you play too much of this music at once, you may not want to go back to work. It’s like having recess reinstated as mandatory ~ a move we’d love to see. And now, in alphabetical order, A Closer Listen presents The Happiest Music of the Year!
Calum Bowen ~ Pikuniku OST (Self-Released)
We could fill this entire list with video game OSTs, but we’re going to leave some for our *Press A* partners. Pikuniku is one of two selections we couldn’t resist: the punchy, 45-track score to a puzzle exploration game (including bonus tracks). The happiness is through the roof, as the music draws upon a myriad of upbeat styles, mirroring the puzzles it represents.
Dan Friel ~ Fanfare (Thrill Jockey)
No, your stereo is not broken! Dan Friel revels in distorted sound, and everything here lands in the red. This makes Fanfare perfect for a summer car ride, windows down, when the sound is distorted anyway and no one cares because you’re on the way to the beach. Adding horns to an already famous video game sound was a genius move. This is a blast, and as such it’s meant to be blasted!
Ed Carlsen ~ Morning Hour (Moderna)
Sometimes it takes a little extra encouragement to get out of bed. Morning Hour provides exactly that, with tracks that ease their way into the consciousness before bursting into bloom, like quiet promises leading to honest fulfillment. “Home” is particularly effective, with light piano giving way to strings, electronics and eventually drums. Throw open those blinds, it’s time to start the day!
Euglossine ~ Coriolis (Hausu Mountain)
The sunshiny vibe is apparent from the cover; Coriolis is music that is glad to be alive. A retro-prog timbre graces the set, which embraces kitsch (yes, those are waves on the title track!) and invites listeners to break out the blankets and the transistor radio. This is how to Hausu!
Human Pyramids ~ Power Pose (Ricco/Three Mile Town)
Our readers will have to wait until Christmas morning to hear the rest of this album, but it’s a perfect day to unwrap the new glockenspiel. The three Human Pyramids albums form a triptych of joy, and Power Pose is the icing on the cake. Let the bells ring out! Let the trumpets blow!
Lena Raine ~ Chicory: An Afternoon in Luncheon (Materia Collective)
This may be the shortest entry on our list, but it’s irresistible: the first taste of the OST for a videogame involving a dog with a magic paintbrush. The tone is perfect: warm, gentle, filled with color. We’re looking forward to hearing the entire project, and our little ones are looking forward to the game!
NakedEye Ensemble ~ Toy (New Focus Recordings)
Pianist Ju-Ping Song (what a great name!) leads the NakedEye Ensemble on an exploration of an often-undervalued instrument, the toy piano. As expected, the timbres are playful throughout; how could it be otherwise? The opening (operatic) track is titled “Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!” but in the hands of these happy musicians, this album is right, right, right!
V/A ~ ShopLand World: Music for a Discovery Park of Miniature Supermarkets (Strategic Tape Reserve)
This unique release contains a mixture of downbeat and upbeat tracks; the happiest angle is the concept. As one listens, one begins to think about what one might include in one’s own miniature discovery park ~ but also what type of park one might prefer to visit. A trip to the local (miniature) supermarket has never been so much fun!
WaqWaq Kingdom ~ Essaka Hoisa (Phantom Limb)
This completely bonkers album is a delight, originally available on pink marble vinyl along with an instrumental version on cassette. “Minyo footwork” doesn’t quite describe it, as no single genre tag is sufficient to cover the hip-hop, Cumbria, sing-a-long passages and Shinto drumming. This is the rare album one can judge by its cover.
W00dy ~ My Diary (Self-Released)
This short explosion of jungle rhythms, chopped-up vocals and measured deconstructions is tailor-made for caffeinated grooving. As David writes in his review, My Diary contains music for dancing alone while feeling at one with the world: a “happy contagion.” This extroverted diary is not only words written in private; it’s an invitation to read.