Dance Gavin Dance – Happiness

img_1_prArtist: Dance Gavin Dance
Album: Happiness
Genre: Hard Rock/ Scene Rock
Label: Rise

Rise Records and Dance Gavin Dance have become staples in the Hot Topic generation’s scene. Through two lead vocalists and now four releases, the band has consistently found an audience for their sound and grown in leaps and bounds. Personally, when Johnny Craig [former lead vocals] left after Downtown Battle Mountain, I lost interest in the froup, but I thought that given their continued success, there must still be something there to hear. As luck would have it, shortly after this thought crossed my mind, the group’s new album, Happiness, arrived at UTG and I suddenly knew why people still cared.

My biggest problem when it came to getting back into DGD was that I thought their last release was spent trying to convince listeners that new vocalist Kurt Travis had the skill and range of Johnny Craig. This was and is in fact, not the case whatsoever, Travis’ voice is much more raw than Craig and his attempts [whether intentional or not] just left a sour taste in my mouth. However, it seems with Happiness, the group is past trying to be the same old group and have truly taken an evolutionary step for themselves that pays off highly.

“Tree Village” welcomes us to the disc with a slow paced swagger that quickly builds and explodes. Travis sings in a range that works much better for himself and the overall instrumentation of the group truly impresses. The track leads perfectly into “Nasa,” the second song and we suddenly find ourselves thrust into an impromptu rock epic. Though there doesn’t appear to be a huge story arc to Happiness, the structure of the record overall is impressive and it flows nearly seamlessly throughout.

However, it’s not just music to be analyzed here and that is especially the case with any Dance Gavin Dance release as their somewhat cryptic lyrics have always been a signature to any album. For the most part, it’s a thought provoking release, but then we reach tracks, such as the childish “I’m Down With Brown Town” and “Strawberry Swisher pt. 2” that does nothing, but set the evolution of the band back in my opinion. The music is still there, but the words just destroy anything the instruments create.

Something that really took me by surprise however, is the meticulously well done, “Carl Baker.” This, to me, is the pivotal track for the band. It’s fusion of the band’s signature take on hard rock with an additional infusion of jazz and compelling storytelling is sure to sweep anyone off of their feet. To me, this is the song that shows us there’s more to this band that has evolved very slowly over the past few releases. This track shows us that yes, Dance gavin Dance have a sound all their own, yet they aren’t willing to settle with that alone. They are going to expand and it’s going to grab you.

I’m not going to claim Happiness is a contender for best album of the year, but I will tell you that it’s quite possibly the best record Dance Gavin Dance has ever released. The group have escape the shadows of Johnny Craig and proven themselves to be a band who’s still working to find their place in the scene. As always, the song structures amaze, but the lyrics still feel infantile at times and that’s holding the group back. However, if tracks like “Carl Baker” are any sign, it won’t be long until Dance Gavin Dance release the kind of album that redefines how we see the scene.

Score: 7.5/10

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Barl Carker

    I agree with most of what you say. However, I don’t quite understand what you mean when you say that the lyrics are “childish”, I mean, they kind of are but that’s another signature of the band. Weirdness.

  • Nessa

    “But the lyrics still feel infantile” I disagree with that. Just like the person above me said, the unusual names honestly to me is what adds onto dgd differentness and not just the same typical shit you hear around the scene.

  • david

    who cares about the lyrics? are they supposed to be revelatory? i agree with nessa, the reason i like dance gavin dance is because they are unusual. their music has soul, it doesn’t sound forced. they are expressing themselves, not trying to please your desire for lyrical complexity!

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