Review:: Happiness Is | Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday have been busy.

New record label: check.
New album: check.
New lineup: well, not technically, since Nolan and Cooper rejoined the group for the last album, but whatever, we’ll say “check” for that, too.

The album starts with the brief minute and-a-half “Preface,” an instrumental introduction which I played on my first listen-through then skipped over on every listen hereafter. There’s nothing wrong with it, and some people enjoy those short openings on albums, but they just aren’t my thing. The quick overture leads directly into the album’s first single, “Flicker, Fade,” which features everything we’ve grown to love and appreciate from Taking Back Sunday over the last decade – Adam Lazzara’s whimpering, but strong vocals, instrumentals that are both rough yet polished, and a chorus that will make a crowd scream.

What makes the great tracks here truly great is the way they outshine the rest. The outperforming that happens on a handful of occasions gives the album a steady pace, whether it’s intentional or not. Resting between the pop/punk gem “Stood a Chance” and “Beat Up Car,” which features a nice staggered vocal part between Nolan and Lazzara that is juuust out-of-time enough to be noticeably off-kilter, the dark “All the Way” gets a bit lost in the mix. Though, when listened to on its own, it still holds merit.

A bit later, this trend of bookending happens again. At the front is “It Takes More,” a standout ballad. The inclusion of eerie piano and twisting, aching vocals throughout makes it as beautiful as it is unsettling. The song continues to build, adding ingredient after ingredient, growing into a cacophonous swirl before drifting away. “They Don’t Have Any Friends” harshly snaps you out of the lull at the end of its predecessor before carrying the listener into the brutal, personal “Better Homes and Gardens.” Lazzara’s lyricism and vocals are both absolutely spot-on, making this one that will please any fan of Taking Back Sunday, regardless of which era they prefer. Musically, it’s misleadingly calm for the words it is paired with, with Lazzara aching “The courage that must’ve took left me utterly speechless / And though it came as no surprise / I still couldn’t believe it. … So just go on / That house that you hate / That house that we bought / And failed to make / It was all for nothing / It was all a waste / And now you’ll never be happy.”

Using the acoustic “Nothing at All” as the album’s closer is effective, following in the footsteps of Louder Now’s “I’ll Let You Live” or “Call Me in the Morning” from their self-titled record. It begins softly, slowly descending into a tranquil echoing before ending in silence.

All in all, though it may not be perfect, Taking Back Sunday deliver an album that fans will appreciate with Happiness Is. And while it probably won’t be a contender in the Tell All Your Friends vs. Where You Want to Be argument for top ranking, it’s a solid record from a veteran band that isn’t done proving what they can do.

Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Rating: 3.75/5
Runtime: 40:58

1. Preface
2. Flicker, Fade
3. Stood a Chance
4. All the Way
5. Beat Up Car
6. It Takes More
7. They Don’t Have Any Friends
8. Better Homes and Gardens
9. Like You Do
10. We Were Younger Then
11. Nothing at All

Taking Back Sunday is:
Adam Lazzara – Vocals
John Nolan – Guitar, vocals, keyboards
Eddie Reyes – Guitar
Shaun Cooper – Bass
Mark O’Connell – Drums, percussion

Written By: Eric Riley