Sound — 8
Taking Back Sunday formed in the late 1990's, and released their first full length album in 2002. Since that time they've had some rather big lineup changes which were pretty much all reversed in 2010 when the band booted newer members to allow original founding members back into the band. This will be their sixth full-length release, but only their third full length release with this lineup. "Happiness Is" has 11 tracks and clocks in at just a little over 40 minutes. The songs "Flicker, Fade" (released January 2014) and "Stood a Chance" (released early March 2014) have been released as singles on the album.
The album opens up with a track titled "Preface," which clocks in at a minute and a half and is essentially a violin and cello with some vocal stuff going on near the end. The "real" opener on the album is the single, "Flicker, Fade," which is a high-energy mid-tempo track. "Stood a Chance," which is the second single, is basically carried by eighth note rhythm and is very catchy. "All the Way" has my favorite bass line from the entire album, but possibly just because it is mixed a little bit differently than on the rest of the album than it being a specifically genius bass line. "Beat Up Car" has an interesting twisty little guitar riff in the intro, and bass and drum driven verses. "It Takes More" is one of the slower tracks on the album, but it has a very sing-along type of chorus. "They Don't Have Any Friends" is one of the heavier tracks from the album, and it has some of my favorite guitar riffs and a more strident tempo. "Better Homes and Gardens" almost leans a little too far into the pop-punk genre for me at times, but the lyrics stayed interesting enough to keep me plugged in. "Like You Do" was almost immediately one of my favorite tracks when it started because I enjoy the way that this track is arranged and uses quiet and loud dynamics. "We Were Younger Then" has the most interesting vibe than any other track on the album, using a lot of contrast between the choruses and verses. The album closes out with the track "Nothing at All," which at first sounded a lot like something I would expect from Radiohead, but as the song goes on the band definitely puts their stamp on it. The album is mixed well, and the songs are engaging.
Lyrics — 7
Lead vocals are, of course, provided by Adam Lazzara and backup vocals are provided by John Nolan. Adam Lazzara has an interesting voice with enough character to make his identity show up but not so much that his voice sounds bad, basically. His vocal delivery ranges from an almost whisper to a full-fledged scream and his voice seems comfortable at both ends of the spectrum. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the single "Flicker, Fade": "If you should change your name/ I'll love you just the same/ and if you should run away/ I would save your place/ so you can go go go/ if you want to/ I wouldn't try and stop you/ I couldn't say I blame you/ Flicker Flicker Fade/ Destroy what you create/ and wonder why it always ends the same/ You wonder why it always ends the same."
Overall Impression — 7
Taking Back Sunday has really taken a turn for the better since going back to their (mostly) original lineup. Their sound is straightforward rock that is well-written and performed and that is their strength as a band. You can argue about this or that influence in their sound, which I wouldn't argue with, they definitely have some subtle and not-so-subtle influences from a few modern genres but they cook it all down to some straight forward rock or alt rock. My favorite tracks on the album are "Like You Do," "Flicker, Fade," "We Were Younger Then" and "All the Way." The closest I came to disliking any song from the album is probably "Better Homes and Gardens," but I got over that. This was a very enjoyable album for me.