Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Album Review: Hurts - Happiness (4.5/5)

I'm definitely loving more releases this half of the year than last, and Manchester based synth-pop duo Hurts is no exception. The duo's debut album Happiness deliverers a glittering mash of broad '80s synths, overblown melodies pulled over cool New Wave sounds, which surprisingly didn't really strike a cord with critics; Alex Petridis of The Guardian said:
"You get the feeling Hurts have spent more time making their back story interesting than their music, which is a shame."
However, I think part of what makes Happiness a success is that there more than apparent '80s pop-driven influence on their music is just as interesting as their back story, maybe even more so. Nit-picking the album to shreds is about as useless as Kevin Federline's music career, because sometimes things just work. The progressive "Silver Lining" kicks things off; cooing with pacing subtle guitars stretched over bubbling synths, strings and soundscapes (slightly re-calling the penetrating build up of synths and scoundscapes on Delphic's Acolyte) before the bass kicks in on the bold chorus. I also applaud the vocals on here; not being devoured by the music but not overpowering either.

Picking up the tempo "Wonderful Life" follow's, dancing with heavy drum-beats and subtle but piercing guitar work in the background. It's also the albums biggest single so far. Quickly slowing things down is "Blood, Tears & Gold" successfully showcases the duo's love for big melody-charged ballads, dramatic productions and all things lyrically cliche. Next up is "Sunday" pulsating with gritty '80s influenced synths, strings and beats--the verses are really cool as in contrast to the chorus which fashions a big invigorating dance sound; the verses sport a throbbing mix of synths and kinetic bass lines that sound like it could have been cut out any typical '80's electronic dance-pop song.

"Stay" is another ballad with another hefty production; clobbering with strong bass lines, handclaps and a stuttering horn, which really comes into effect as the chorus soars. "Illuminated" is lovely but uneven mid-tempo, clamping down with layeres of synth, bass lines and soundscapes. It's surprisingly contemporary, also exuding elements of rock especially in the verses as electronic guitars pierce through the haunting production. The enchanting ballad "Evelyn" is very nicely carried by heavy orchetratic strings, burtst of harmonica (which really sounds like a broken violin in some parts) and rapid drums.

The duo's introductory club-ready single "Better Than Love" really showcases their '80s flare more than any other track, upping the '80s influenced synths, pulsating with heavy phychedelic beats and bass lines--all elements creating a fantastic slick '80's synth-charged dance-pop production. "Devotion" packs a big punch in its chorus--a dramatic bass-heavy arrangement clobbered down with bursts of electronic guitars and heavy drums, but the duo hold comfortable restraint in their vocals; a nice contrast.

"Unspoken" is another enchanting ballad heavily carried by an orchestra, strings and heavy trembling drum beats, but still sounds good--it has a very classic feel to it because of its persistent piano keys. Melody-charged closing track "The Water" is a soft ballad enclosed with strings, piano keys and violins, giving a gentle close to the album.

I'm very impressed with Hurt's debut album. It's a shame critics couldn't tap into it the same I way I did. It's a bit uneven and rough around the edges but it's consistent as nearly every track is a winner and a good handful are knockouts. Happiness is definitely a contender for my album of the year.

Best: Better Than Love, Silver Lining, Wonderful Life, Sunday, Illuminated, Devotion, Blood Sweat & Gold


ww_adh said...

I really like this album too. What exactly is their oh-so-interesting back story?

J.Mensah said...

God knows! But the music is great and if there is a really interesting back story, it overshadow's it. :)