Now, it would be absolutely fair to say that I am quite keen on a sad album. Take a look through my record collection and you’ll see a good selection of the more melancholic areas of the musical spectrum, from downbeat electronic works from the likes of Burial, through emotional Singer/Songwriters of the Damien Rice and Daniel Blumberg (check out the review for his heartbreaking solo debut here), on to the angsty teenage feelings of My Chemical Romance and every other shade of tear-jerking audio in-between. I bloody love me some sweet sad tunes!
However, even I couldn’t be prepared for the level of absolute bleakness that the Wave Pictures have presented in their latest album ‘Brushes With Happiness‘, a title that could not be any more inappropriate short of labelling itself ‘Super Happy Fun Times In Cheerful Sunshine & Lollipops Town‘.
Good Lord is this album utterly, unrelentingly miserable. Even just sitting here writing about it is a challenge, as I am forced to write through, if I were in a film would be, a haze of tears, my surroundings filtered into black and white, with plenty of dramatic close-up shots of the pain in my tired eyes.
It’s a good thing it’s an absolutely outstanding album then isn’t it?
It’s true, as much as this album may have almost broken me out of reality and into the dimension of a noir film in which I contemplate the meaning of my very existence with it’s sheer emotional weight, it is also one of the most enjoyable releases of the year so far, easily punching it’s way into the final contenders for ‘Album Of The Year‘ status. A broken voice pushes the stories of it’s creator though each chapter. Lonely guitar lines echo across a sparse instrumental field, very occasional little slips away from tune add another welcome layer to the journey. Strings fade in and out, with little to no fanfare. Rhythm is kept slow and steady by simple percussion, partnered with some absolutely sublime bass work, walking around behind each melody, lonely as a cloud. Yes, we did actually just say that.
There are no real low points to speak of here, but if you have to sample this album in brief, opening tracks ‘The Red Suitcase‘ and ‘Rise Up‘ are the text book examples of everything that makes up the forty-nine minute run-time of ‘Brushes With Happiness‘ such a stunning musical journey, whilst the ring of bells that open ‘Volcano‘ and the unpolished spoken-word of ‘The Little Window’ also make for some truly unforgettable listens.
In short, should you feel emotionally strong enough, this is an absolutely essential listening experience, to be enjoyed as a whole, rather than in single song chunks.