Salt Lake City just got a whole lot cooler; thanks to the Biddulph brothers and their indie dream pop outfit The Happies. Named "best unsigned local band in Salt Lake City" in 2005, The Happies have a great thing going in their emotional, melodic-washed trance rock power ditties that gobble up your attention and hook you from the first delicate Shins-like rock-out to the very last pensive Sgt. Pepper's psychedelic post "down-from-a-serious-acid-high" crash. If Meet the Happies was unadulterated, amazingly fresh unsigned indie indulgence, then If We Were Really Here is like…kicking down the door to Wonderland and stomping on every damn white rabbit within fifty yards with heavy, metal boots.
Okay, that doesn't make any sense. But I get the same warm and fuzzy feeling while listening to this album. It's the same feeling I got when I first discovered The Happies last year, downloading Meet the Happies in its entirety for free (which, astonishingly enough, is still available; go get it!), the smile getting bigger and wider after every purring download. Okay, maybe it was just the fact that I was getting music for free; but it's like that, times a hundred. I honestly couldn't believe that I was listening to an unsigned band.
But, as was to be expected, the "unsignage" didn't last long. The band is now with Eden's Watchtower Records and they have tightened up their sound considerably since Meet the Happies. The ba ba's sound livelier, the piano is fuller, the guitars are strummier, the vocals harmonize ridiculously well, and the production has been narrowed down to a science. They sound like they've had their heads unclamped from a vice, their straightjackets loosed and removed, their worn and ragged size ten Vans changed for the perfectly fitting size elevens, their bladders emptied after a straight three-hundred mile passage through the desert in July after sucking down a Double Gulp of Mountain Dew. On If We Were Really Here, they've made wispy more delicate. Beautiful more attractive. Breathtaking more overwhelming. And lovable more charming.
Try every track. Each and every one sounds like it went through a year of scrutiny, weeks of sleepless nights getting the formula just right. Perfect? Damn near. There is always room for improvement, but the accolades aren't just in the music. It's the way in which the music is pasted together, the way it's been baked to a golden brown. I can't imagine any album being more fluid. Many bands take a lifetime to get to this perfection. The Happies have done it in just two albums. Listen and learn. All of the sudden I feel like the move back to Utah…is going to be okay. For fans of Belle & Sebastian, The Shins, The Beatles, Grandaddy (R.I.P.), and Stereolab.