(photo:: Alexia Kapralos)
Album reviews
Taking Back Sunday
Happiness Is
Release year:
31 March 2014 / by Luke Williams (author)

Happiness really “Is” to be found in the new Taking Back Sunday album. It is the band’s sixth album; second since the reformation of the band’s original line up in 2011. It is the first album the band has released with Los Angeles record label, Hopeless Records. 


Off the top, Happiness Is starts off poorly with the song “Preface,” which feels to me like a minute-and-a-half crescendo that tries calmly to tell me something and make me feel some sort of emotion but I just can’t make out the message, and the feeling is lost on me. Yet this impression is quickly forgiven when the very next track, “Flicker Fade,” clicks in. This song embodies the absolute meaning of a Taking Back Sunday song, with vocalist Adam Lazzara passionately lyrics about a personal relationship (the root of most of the band’s catalogue of songs). The addition of a violin solo at 2:17 makes the song feel grown-up and mature, and then at 2:28 comes something that every true Taking Back Sunday fan should expect… the interlude harmony between Lazzara and guitarist/backing vocalist, John Nolan - and man - is it a thing of beauty! I actually have no words to describe it; you just need to hear it to understand why.


Despite the rough and slow start, the album continues to speed up and convince you of its freshness with the energetic and fantastic “Stood a Chance.”  This song shows, without a doubt, the connection between the band members. Everyone is featured prominently in this song, and this is something you don’t always see in today’s music. 


The thing you have to consider when judging this album, is that this is a band whose first album came out in 2002 and in the past 12 years, not only has the band grown up, so has their fan base. The original Taking Back Sunday fan has been out of high school for a decade or so, and are likely married with kids now; they may no longer crave drama-filled high school anthems like “Cute Without the E,” or “There is No I in Team.”


Accordingly, the band’s lyrics do a great job in addressing subject matter still relevant to the original fans, yet manage to refrain from alienating younger fans.  A great example of this is “Beat Up Car,” where Lazzara talks about taking a job and saving up for a “beat up car" to serve as a getaway vehicle. In the interlude, he chants,

“A dotted line you’ll sign for me/ We’ll get to work/ We’ll work for cheap/ We’ll work for us/ We’ll work for free/ Pray for job security/ Show them how it feels to be/ Together to admit defeat/ To revel in the irony/ Some place we can be ourself.”  

The idea of working a dead-end job and trying to escape town in order to be free; all the while, signing away our life, is one that resonates with those in high school, those fresh out of it and even those who graduated a decade or so ago. This lyric growth is evident in other songs throughout the album, and shows the musicianship and attention to detail Taking Back Sunday has put into their new music.


Lastly, although I mentioned I didn’t much enjoy how the album started, Taking Back Sunday did manage to bring back another staple element of their music, which left me feeling what Happiness Is: the album’s chill and acoustic closing.  Taking Back Sunday has always seemed to know how to end an album with a great acoustic number. Take, for example, “Call Me in the Morning,” from 2011’s Taking Back Sunday, which was an amazing acoustic send-off. In cases where there is not an acoustic ending, there is often a line repeated over and over, which closes out the album in a way destined to be stuck in your head:

"Tonight won’t make a difference/ Tonight won’t make a difference,”

(from “Slowdance on the Inside” off of 2004’s Where You Want to Be).

Or, take the original repeated exit,

Don’t call my name out your window I’m leaving/ I’m sick of writing every song about you,”

(from 2002’s debut Tell All Your Friends).

Happiness Is ends with “Nothing At all,” which features a more stripped-down and acoustic feel, combined with another repeated exit of

“Until I want nothing at all/Until I want nothing at all”

Happiness Is really is a fantastic offering from a band who knows how to please its listener and I cannot suggest enough that you check out this album whether you have been a fan since the very beginning of or you have never heard of Taking back Sunday  



The author

Luke Williams

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