As near apocalypses go, our last couple of crisis years have fortunately cut us some brilliant diamonds. Perhaps by designating the freshman full-length album by Indie band Raymond Happiness as brilliant I could be deemed guilty of overstatement, but one need only pay careful attention to the cuts produced by these three siblings to realize the end of the world may not be such a bad thing after all.
The brothers Kounter are apparently musical and tech-whizzes. They’re the type of young guys who make their aging peers (sweating through expensive recording sessions) seem more than a bit silly. Musically, The End injects a feeling of ease as songs exchange various genre nuances of enjoyable indie-pop, while all the time showcasing intricate, mature, song-writing sensibilities.
The album begins with a brief, ironic 50s influenced farce which uncovers a bit of a welcomed, self-deprecating awareness. From there, it’s straight into the title cut, which might be the album’s most radio friendly number. This indie-pop, EDM jaunt introduces the listener to the artists’ obvious knack for writing catchy melodies with punchy phrase turns, while also peppering the unsuspecting with unexpected complexities.
There is a certain later Owl City vibe about it until you get to the bridge, which features a Matthew Thiessen type of word twist that works well to keep the listener from being over-hooked. As we’ve learned from their previous efforts (singles and an EP), a rule of thumb for the Happiness boys is to expect the unexpected. Still, while this collection continues the creative explosions, it remains not only remarkably fluid but also gracefully thoughtful. One might even say there’s a certain Gen Z mood here that says to its elders: You’ve left us with a pretty screwed up world, but we’re still going to find life, love, and perhaps even God.
The infectious track “Wolves” (which opens with cryptic talking accompanied by a mellotron), sonically harkens shades of Foster the People and lyrically suggests the author might see himself as one of the last remaining dogs (or lambs) on earth where…
Nobody knows just how to get out
And if we don’t get out it’s
Round and round and round
Until we all fall down-lyrics from WOLVES
Don’t think for a moment, however, this is a particularly dark album. One might define its tone as a pleasantly pensive, where the joys of love are carefully experienced and expressed. This motif is clearly portrayed in the various ballads, which somehow remain both bold and yet understated – a feat that can’t be pulled off by just anyone (think Ben Gibbard). Speaking of feats, be certain to give no brief attention to the next-to-the-last number entitled “Glow.” In this reviewer’s opinion it’s the best song on the album, revealing a writing and performance ability that transitions the band from being not just greatly gifted, but also capable of the utterly transcendent.
Suffice it to say, Raymond’s The End is a nearly endless treasure of audio jewelry with a mosaic of poetic and production bliss – through which a listener can face global cataclysms with a marked level of… Happiness. One hopes The End is only the beginning for these guys.
- music review by Francis H