Sound — 9
It was hard for me to imagine Dance Gavin Dance without Jonny Craig, but Kurt Travis has showed that the band still can produce its own style of music. With the loss of Jon Mess, however, I was almost certain that the band had to put 110% into their efforts of producing an album that can carry the band. With much anticipation, Happiness delivers a new sound to Dance Gavin Dance fans in a surprisingly well-packaged form. This album features a new style of scream vocals from Will Swan as he takes the helm from Mess's departure. Swan's seemingly more "deep" screams combined with the melodic and improved vocals of Kurt Travis truly create a new sound for Dance Gavin Dance (check Tree Village), but not to the point where it's unfamiliar to fans. There are songs, however, that stray away from previous sounds and introduce a "party-like" theme as portrayed in Don't Tell Dave and Powder to the People. I took this as a fresh breathe of air because it shows a side of Dance Gavin Dance that I haven't heard before. The guitar work is what you would expect from Dance Gavin Dance. This, added with effects and Matt Mingus' superb drum work, as shown in "Self-Trepanation", create a new and unique sound to the band. I'll admit, I had to take a little time and effort to truly appreciate Happiness for what it is, but I'm glad I did.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are generally what you would expect from Dance Gavin Dance but songs such as Don't Tell Dave stood out the most, and not always in a good way. "Talk on the phone, telling everybody that we're gonna have a real good time / And we don't care if it gets a little rowdy, everything is gonna be alright" The simplicity of these lyrics did make me ponder on the direction of the album, but it wasn't to the point where I would not listen. Despite some of the strange lyrical direction in some songs, there are moments where the signature Dance Gavin Dance style shines through in songs such as NASA: "I drained the well, so the town has no water / I cut the powerlines and buried the graves / I drank the blood from the fortunate ones / And self-destruction 'cause we're all the same" Overall, there are surprises throughout the album as the band explores different lyrical areas to match their evolving sound.
Overall Impression — 9
Dance Gavin Dance is not what it used to be in Downtown Battle Mountain, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. This band shows its resilience through several lineup changes in the vocal and bass department to continue and progress their own sound while still exploring new areas. Happiness sets the stage for the direction Dance Gavin Dance is headed with a firm lineup with Kurt Travis taking the helm. Now stop reading this review and listen to the album!