Monday, August 10, 2015

Get Happy!

If you read this blog frequently then you'll probably have spotted that I really like listening to sad, depressing music. It's not that I myself am sad and depressed, and nor do I wish to become sad and depressed; I just love music that makes me feel, and it just so happens that 95% of the truly emotive music out there is sad and depressing.

Occasionally, however, I'll encounter an album that's moving in the opposite way. It's difficult for a happy album to have the same impact as an overwhelmingly sad one - I suppose sadness is generally felt much deeper than happiness or contentment - but it does happen, every once in a great while.

Lupercalia by Patrick Wolf is a tremendous example. I purchased this album (released in 2011 and named after an ancient pagan festival) on Amazon recently, and it's just so joyful and so at peace with both past and present that it's impossible not to feel that same happiness yourself. Here's House, one of the album's many happy highlights:

I think the thing that makes Lupercalia so potently jubilant is the fact that Patrick Wolf didn't exactly make his name by singing happy songs about how wonderful everything is. Lupercalia was preceded in the Wolf discography by The Bachelor, an album of real conflict and strife; PW spent most of that record besieged by vultures and lost in thickets, making the peace and joy of Lupercalia all the more striking by contrast. In the context of PW's back catalogue, Lupercalia is not mindlessly happy fluff but a moving and much-deserved resolution to the unhappiness that marked its predecessors.

In this respect, Patrick Wolf's discography is very much like that of the Eels. Mark Oliver Everett (also known simply as E) has seen far, far more than his fair share of tragedy over the years: at the age of 19, he found his father dead in the family living room; in 1996, his sister killed herself after a long battle with depression; his mother died of lung cancer within two years of his sister's passing; his cousin was on the plane that flew into The Pentagon on 9/11. I could go on, probably.

With all of the above in mind, it's remarkable that E ever managed to write any happy songs at all, let alone an entire album's worth of them. And yet that's exactly what 2010's Tomorrow Morning (and, to a lesser extent, 2000's Daisies of the Galaxy) is: a rare ray of sunshine in the Eels' otherwise rather dark and gloomy discography. Who'd have thought that the man behind Electro-Shock Blues would ever come out with something as unreservedly happy and optimistic as Mystery of Life?

So, if you're a musician and you want to write a happy album that's just as powerful as my favourite sad albums, my advice is to write a couple of sad albums first. Your happy songs will be far more moving if it feels like you've earned them.

No comments:

Post a Comment