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Taking Back Sunday - Happiness Is Album Cover

Taking Back Sunday - Happiness Is

Reviewed by
8.0
Taking Back Sunday - Happiness Is
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Record Label: Hopeless
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
You can describe the Taking Back Sunday fandom by imagining a simple Venn diagram: one circle contains fans who only enjoy the Tell All Your Friends outfit, the other full of fans that prefer the band's major label records (Louder Now and New Again). And then there's the small intersection of fans who prefer a little bit of everything from Taking Back Sunday's vast discography. You can see why the majority of TBS news threads are littered with hundreds of differing opinions.

The band's sixth record, however, looks to bring those two sides together. Happiness Is is Taking Back Sunday's first independent release in almost ten years (via Hopeless Records) and delivers that indie spirit throughout its eleven tracks. That energy is immediately felt on opening single "Flicker, Fade." Clashing cymbals and soaring guitar chords are the backdrop as Adam Lazzara softly sings, “If you should change your name/I’d love you just the same/and if you’d run away/I’d save your place." It's oddly comforting, with its eruptive and incredibly catchy chorus sandwiched with the band’s mastery of soft/loud/soft dynamics. It also re-introduces John Nolan and Mark O'Connell back to the mix. Both musicians seemed lost in the overall recording of Taking Back Sunday, and on "Flicker, Fade," Nolan delivers his impassioned yells (which buoy the song’s chaotic outro), while O'Connell's raucous drumming gives the track (and the rest of Happiness Is) its spine.

The rest of Happiness Is is presented with the challenge of living up to the pure euphoria of "Flicker, Fade." The band tries to continue the momentum with the jittery "Stood A Chance" (which really doesn't hit the spot until its final minute), but "All The Way" and "Beat Up Car" come very close to matching that initial high. "Beat Up Car" showcases some of the passion that initially put the band on map with its squealing guitars interplaying nicely with the quick bursts of some vocal back-and-forth between Lazzara and Nolan.

It's tracks like "Beat Up Car" and the frantic "They Don't Have Any Friends" that pick up the sometimes plodding pace of the ballad-heavy Happiness Is. But that's not to say those ballads are bland - the band touches each one up with interesting dynamics and flourishes into each one. The clear standouts are "It Takes More" and the destructive "Better Homes And Gardens." The former reaches its peak three minutes in with a fiery final chorus, while the latter is a mid-tempo heartbreaker - lingering on a failed relationship as dueling guitars crash into Lazzara's brutally honest lyrics. Happiness Is showcases how much each member of Taking Back Sunday has grown as an individual and a musician.

I wrote earlier this year that expectations for Taking Back Sunday needed to be re-adjusted and that the band members still needed time to feel each other out and write to their strengths while others believed the band was washed up for good. This LP will probably be the litmus test for OG TBS 2.0, considering they’ve now been touring and writing with each other for the past three-plus years. While the band will never recapture the dizzying highs of that past, listeners shouldn't want a band to pander to a specific moment of time. Taking Back Sunday is comfortable with being one of the better alt-rock bands out there instead of bearing the burden of this scene. Happiness is defined differently by every one. For Taking Back Sunday, it might be re-discovering the path the band's always wanted to be on.

8/10
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 79
07:17 AM on 04/18/14
#2
Zack Zarrillo
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Better Homes is one of my favorite Taking Back Sunday songs of all time. So, so good
07:27 AM on 04/18/14
#3
mka12992
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Better Homes is one of my favorite Taking Back Sunday songs of all time. So, so good
That's how I feel about We Were Younger Then, Better Homes and Gardens is rad though.
07:32 AM on 04/18/14
#4
Ska Senanake
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I honestly love love love this album
07:37 AM on 04/18/14
#5
TheWoj
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That's how I feel about We Were Younger Then, Better Homes and Gardens is rad though.
I get confused between the two because he has a line about "better homes" in We Were Younger Then.
07:40 AM on 04/18/14
#6
Johnnydcp
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I feel like for their last couple of albums they have a few solid tracks then lots of filler/so-so material.
07:46 AM on 04/18/14
#7
FTank
I hate Golden Tate
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I like Flicker, Fade and Stood a Chance. The rest, not very much.
07:49 AM on 04/18/14
#8
The Old Black
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I'm coming around to the album...but am I the only one who can't stand "Beat up Car" and "Better Homes..."?

I didn't like it much at first but there's probably 5-7 tracks I really enjoy. Which is what I've come to expect on everything post Louder Now.
07:58 AM on 04/18/14
#9
CallumSty
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I'm coming around to the album...but am I the only one who can't stand "Beat up Car" and "Better Homes..."?

I didn't like it much at first but there's probably 5-7 tracks I really enjoy. Which is what I've come to expect on everything post Louder Now.
I think you might be! Two of my favourite TBS songs!
08:06 AM on 04/18/14
hiddenjem
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Loved Louder Now, but not much of anything after that.. Looking forward to hearing this now, especially after Drew's review.
08:07 AM on 04/18/14
suppyguppy
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This record surprised me in a cool way. Still would like to hear John Nolan sing a bit more but but his songwriting was clearly more prevalent on this album compared to the last. Flicker Fade, It Takes More, and Nothing At All are my favorites right now.
08:09 AM on 04/18/14
Circa1628
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Better Homes is one of my favorite Taking Back Sunday songs of all time. So, so good
Yeah, that song is intense. I've gone through some things recently in my marriage too, so that song hits hard.
08:25 AM on 04/18/14
ChaseTx
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TBS has such a solid discography. This falls somewhere in the middle for me, with s/t being best and LN being last
08:31 AM on 04/18/14
Anthony Sorendino
You are not your idea.
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Great review! I need to give the album a fair shot.

I uploaded a better quality album art for you.
08:49 AM on 04/18/14
WhatJulianSaid
News on Once the Clouds are Gone
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Still hoping I can listen to this soon, I heard its solid.

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