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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Dutch Elms
Music for Happiness
Jigsaw Records

Rating: 7/10 ?


October 1, 2004
The Dutch Elms come from the same fertile soil as the Revolutionary Hydra, and for that matter share a connection with Death Cab for Cutie, thanks to the work in all three of Mr. Jay Chilcote. It's a complicated family tree, but it is there, and in this incarnation, is devoid of all the gray, rainy drizzle of the Seattle surroundings. Music for Happiness couldn't be named more plainly; at times, it is so sugary it could give you a stomachache.

There are instances where Music for Happiness is just too much. The opening track, "Cleopatra", is enough to scare you off from your favorite candy for a while. It begins like a cartoon theme with breezy male/female harmonies, and a sweetness that is almost instantly cloying. The go-go dancer-meets-mod hipster theme, "Therefore Talk" ventures to the same sugar high oblivion, and the overbearing nature of it all can ultimately turn you off.

Thankfully, though, a greater majority of the tracks know how to make the most of a subdued nature, at least hinting at deeper reflection and their musical roots. Quite a few songs feel vaguely like Elliott Smith, with an understated, winded quality that plays up nice harmonies and sobering-yet-retro pop inclinations. "Yesterday's Coffee" could be followed with the offering, "Please share my umbrella," as the songs evoke similar feelings. Likewise, "Dinner Train" picks up on "Last Train to Clarksville," and the strained piano pop and soft-spoken, beachy vocals of "Don't Call Me Winston" remind me why people were so crazy for the Monkees in their day.

"Died in a Lake" is the only real oddity in tone, but it works - the track is garage rock in the truest sense, holed up next to cars and cans as it makes a go at sparse, Kinks-inspired noise. It doesn't feel out of place, however, as the cutting board has generally been reserved for the excessively sweet, overdone numbers mentioned above.

By the time we reach the final, and best, track of the album, however, the sugar has fairly settled to the bottom of the glass. "Letters From" is lovely, making the most of the pop format with ease, harmony and restraint. It is well worth waiting for, and in hindsight, gives a graceful reflection on the rest of the album. When taken in its entirety, Music for Happiness is a satisfying pop album, where real happiness is found in depth. There's something profound to be said in that, but I'll leave the record to be enjoyed; that seems to be its selfless purpose.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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