Taking Back Sunday: Happiness Is Album Review
If someone ever told me that for the rest of my life I could choose one single artist/band to listen to, I would easily turn to Taking Back Sunday. I can vividly remember the excitement I felt after leaving my town’s local grungy music store after purchasing their first studio album, Tell All Your Friends, in 2002. At the time, little did I know just how impactful that band would ultimately turn out to be on my life.
Twelve years later, Taking Back Sunday has just released their sixth studio album, entitled Happiness Is, and they are making music just as good as their classics. This will be the third album the band releases under the original lineup from Tell All Your Friends, and trust me, they are such an impeccable group of musicians. The chemistry that Taking Back Sunday had during the Tell All Your Friends years is something that avid fans reminisce about and long for every time an old Taking Back Sunday song happens to come on. And while I can’t say that their new album, Happiness Is, is a reflective throwback and ode to their first album, it is definitely demonstrative of how each of the band members have grown and developed stylistically over the past decade, while still maintaining their unique sense of emo-alternative passionately-crafted lyricism.
Now- to the album at hand.
The album starts off with Taking Back Sunday’s first recorded instrumental intro. Nothing too insane, and I’m not really sure how necessary it is, but it serves well to lead you into the album’s first single off of the album:
2. “Flicker, Fade”
“Flicker, Fade,” was one of two singles released prior to the drop of the album, and it is such an awesome song to kick off an album with. A high-energy track reminiscent of that old TBS sound that we all love from the early 2000s with traces of some of their accumulated maturity, “Flicker, Fade” is undoubtedly a perfect song to set the tone for the rest of the album.
3. “Stood a Chance”
In predictable fashion, “Stood a Chance” was the second single release of the album, and it does well to mirror some of the same energy from the previous song, with some slight variations. “Stood a Chance” has a sound that is a little more on par with where Taking Back Sunday seems to be at their current moment, and reflects more of their newfound alternative rock maturity. This will be a song that people will bounce and jump to when they throw it down in a live performance. If you’re somebody who happens to be a huge fan of the famous post-second chorus breakdowns that Taking Back Sunday has mastered from their first album on, then give this song a listen because it serves up an awesome throwback to that classic TBS bridge.
“Stood a Chance”
4. “All the Way”
Upon my first scan of the album, “All the Way” was one of the songs that really stuck out to me. It’s got more of an old-school TBS ballad sound to it, and strays from the energetic and upbeat alternative sound they’ve been encroaching. While the song itself has a fairly predictable structure and simple sound, it’s a nice reprieve from the first two songs on the album and it reminds you that Taking Back Sunday still puts out those emo-influenced softies.
5. “Beat Up Car”
I heard the title to this fifth track and was super stoked as to what the song might entail. With a name like “Beat Up Car,” I thought it was going to be an ultimate throwback to their days of anonymity when they put out some of their greatest songs and nobody really knew them. On the contrary, “Beat Up Car” somewhat extends “All the Way” with its emo-influenced relationship-centered lyrics but picks up the pace a little bit. This fifth track has a sound that really serves to remind me of Taking Back Sunday’s 2009 album release, New Again.
6. “It Takes More”
“It Takes More” has got such a cool power-ballad sound to it. It’s a little bit fuller and cuts a little bit deeper than “All the Way” with some cool, gritty synths placed throughout the song accompanied with drums that have been produced to sound very big and echo-y. As you listen through the song, the mix of lead and background vocals serves to make you feel like you really can’t tell what is going on, but it just makes the vibe of the song. It ends with a fade of some of those gritty synths, some very quiet violin, and some incoherent talking and conversing and noises going on in the background which ultimately fades to silence. Definitely a song that is an experience to listen through.
7. “They Don’t Have Any Friends”
“They Don’t Have Any Friends” is a pretty standard Taking Back Sunday song. Its vibes really line up with some of the more mature-sounding songs off of their third album release, Louder Now. I wouldn’t say there is anything particularly special about this song, unfortunately, but every album has those fillers, right?
8. “Better Homes and Gardens”
… And then comes track number 8. My personal absolute favorite off of the album, “Better Homes and Gardens” is just the perfect blend of everything new Taking Back Sunday has become laced with odes to everything incredible that they used to be in their younger days. The song paints the perfect picture of a failed marriage lyrically, and the sound mimics the desperation and disappointment that the lyrics create. If you’re a big fan of old-school Taking Back Sunday and are not too happy with where they are now, please give this song a listen. And if it doesn’t appeal to you at first, look up the lyrics, listen to it again, and again, and again; eventually it will sink in and you will love it- I promise.
“Better Homes and Gardens”
9. “Like You Do”
After the deep cut that “Better Homes and Gardens” leaves us with, Taking Back Sunday picks up the mood and throws “Like You Do” at us. A much simpler song, “Like You Do” is an upbeat bouncer that describes that sweet, perfect relationship that we all wish we could hold on to. If you’re looking for something that sounds a little bit more like the “new-TBS,” this song will serve you well!
10. “We Were Younger Then”
I actually did not like “We Were Younger Then” at all, when I first listened through the album. I remember talking with my brother Zac, another die-hard TBS fan, about the song and upon him realizing my disappointment with the song he immediately counteracted me and said it was one of his favorites on the album. So after giving it a few more listens while reading through the lyrics, I realized that this was the song I was looking for in “Beat Up Car” but never received. Lyrically, “We Were Younger Then” is that perfect throwback to TBS’s older days, but they pair it up with their newfound mature sound and it just creates a really awesome dichotomy. After the second chorus, the song breaks down into a smooth acoustic guitar lick with some drum rolls and singer Adam Lazzara unleashing everything that can be said about where Taking Back Sunday was and where they have made it, now. This song is TBS’s reflection over their past decade and a half together, and I absolutely love witnessing it.
11. “Nothing At All”
“Nothing At All” is an awesome way to end the album. It is a super mellowed down, deep, progressive sounding slow jam. All acoustic, paired with some deep noise, “Nothing At All” is a perfect reflection of Lazzara’s insatiable desire for more and more success with his music career. An absolutely chilling way to put an end to Happiness Is, this song really cuts deep and will definitely put you in a wild mood.
Overall, Taking Back Sunday’s newest album, Happiness Is, is a clear and definitive success for them. The second album release since all of the original members of the band have reconvened, Happiness Is shows the ways that our favorite guys have grown while still serving as a refreshing ode to some of the best music TBS produced over a decade ago. While there are parts of me that would kill for some more music along the lines of what the band put out under Tell All Your Friends or Where You Want to Be, Happiness Is is probably as close as I can get to having that desire fulfilled- and I can most certainly live with that.