Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Album Review: Everything But The Here And Now by Happy Accidents (by Emma Prew)

London-based indie pop punk trio Happy Accidents are back with their follow up to 2016’s debut album, You Might Be Right. Due to be released on 16th February on Alcopop! records, I’m sure that Everything But The Here And Now is going to take the band to the next level. We got sent a copy of the album early to review and I jumped at the chance to be the one to do it.

The opening track of Everything But The Here And Now is called Nunhead and it opens with some lovely jangly guitar. But it’s not just guitars that I can hear – are those keys of some description in the background as well? That’s certainly something new that Happy Accidents didn’t have on their first album! The opening lines of the song, with their themes of cemeteries, sets a fairly sombre tone – ‘When you say meet me by the cemetery, I think ‘great’ because some cliches are necessary.’ The song progresses slowly with the drums not kicking in until more than half way through the song. Phoebe’s softer vocals join Rich for some harmonies as the volume increases and everything seems fuller for last 30 seconds, before it all fades out into the next song.

The next two tracks were released at the end of November to serve as a significant sneak peak of what was to come from the band’s second album. I was immediately hooked on the first of the two, which is the second song on Everything But The Here And Now, Wait It Out. This is an upbeat head-nodder of a track that is quite simply pure Happy Accidents. The song is about how you can sometimes find yourself daydreaming or looking ahead rather than focussing on today. The chorus of Wait It Out nods nicely towards the album title – I love it when an album’s title is a lyric in a song rather than simply the same as a track title – ‘All I seem to be thinking about is everything but the here and now, Losing sight of the sights and sounds and everything that I care about.’ There are also some more synthy keys that give the end of the song an even bigger sound. Great stuff. A Better Plan is the other song that I’d heard ahead of listening to the album as a whole and this track is quite different from the previous one, not least because it sees Phoebe take over from Rich on lead vocal duties. The song has quite a straight up punk rock intro with pounding drums and a pretty funky bassline that immediately grabs your attention. Phoebe did backing vocals or individual verses on the band’s previous releases but hadn’t taken quite such a leading role before this album. I have no idea why as she has a lovely voice! It reminds me a bit of fellow Londoners Colour Me Wednesday, especially with the dream pop-like chorus – ‘And I don’t know who you think I am, But I’m not sure you understand.’ That said, A Better Plan still sounds distinctly like Happy Accidents.

The fourth song, Float, is a super short one at a mere 46 seconds in length. It continues the dream-like sound that I noticed hints of in A Better Plan. With Phoebe singing just a few lines accompanied by mellow background music, the song quite literally floats along. This song definitely feels like an interlude although at only number four on the tracklist it does seem a bit early. Diving straight in with drums, a bold bassline and a melodic and catchy guitar riff before too long, Act Naturally ticks all the right boxes with me for a great song. Rich is back on vocal duties for this song with softer backing vocals from Phoebe. This is a song about how trying to be yourself and ‘acting naturally’ can sometimes be easier said than done. One of the lyrics that particularly stood out to me was ‘Actively acting positive.’ There’s also a really great bass solo from Neil at 2 and a half minutes-ish which sounds contrastingly darker than the rest of the song. Definitely one of my favourites of Everything But The Here And Now.

Happy Accidents have made my job of talking about what each song is about quite easy by naming their songs logically although it doesn’t make for such an inventive review perhaps… The sixth song is called Free Time and it is, surprise surprise, about never having enough free time. It’s probably about more than just that but at least they don’t unnecessarily over complicated things. The song opens with ‘I need more free time’ repeated by Phoebe before Rich sings the opening verse. There is plenty of swapping of vocals throughout the song which actually reflects well on a particular lyric – ‘I need cause to see, It’s about more than me.’ Around the middle point, Free Time takes a bit of a negative turn. There is a slower pace with the instruments taking a backseat to allow focus on Rich’s words. ‘This is who I am.’ ‘Will there be an end.’ However, it feels like Phoebe brings a bit of light back with her soothing vocals that bring the track to an end. Up next we have a song called Different Views. This song begins with some great indie-sounding guitars and ahh-ahhs, before a classic Happy Accidents mid-tempo verse starts up. This is a Phoebe-led song about making your own choices and trying to be friends with someone whose views you don’t agree with but finding that it can be difficult. The volume is cranked up a notch for the chorus with some stop-start guitars in between vocal lines. ‘Think about it, Think again, I’d like to like you, Can we really still be friends, With such different views.’ This time Rich adds some subtle backing vocals which is a nice twist on the Phoebe backing vocals and harmonies of earlier Happy Accidents tracks. 

As we edge closer towards the end of the album I feel like it’s time I properly acknowledged how great bassist Neil is on Everything But The Here And Now. Obviously I’ve talked about Rich and Phoebe quite a bit as they are singing the songs but I really love the bass parts on this album. Eighth track Unwind is a prime example of this. Rich’s vocals start the song but it is the bass guitar, over the drums, that stands out behind this. It really drives the song in my opinion. Lyrically this song is about sometimes feeling the need to hide what you’re really thinking or feeling but knowing at some point, with some person, you will be able to share ‘What is really on my mind.’ – ‘When we get back we’ll unwind, Share what’s really on our minds.’ There’s also some more of those dual vocals that they do so well. The next song, Text Me When You’re Home, starts up with some melodic keys before heavier guitars also join the mix. And now I get how/why Happy Accidents performed a Killers cover set before Christmas – it makes perfect sense. This is a song that I, as a female, can completely relate to. I have it in my head that I should never walk home (or anywhere but to and from my car) on my own in the dark/at night. Yet I think it is fine for a man to do so. Why is that? And why have I never considered that maybe it shouldn’t be this way? It definitely made me stop and think. Text Me When You’re Home is a super slow paced song but that simply allows the listener to fully take in all of the words. The heavier guitars and bass return for the outro which also features plenty of reverb.

Maybe Tomorrow feels more stripped back than any of the previous tracks on Everything But The Here And Now – I could imagine this song being acoustic or accompanied by only piano. That would be really cool actually, can you arrange that for me please Happy Accidents? This is sort of a relatively pessimistic song that is trying to turn the tables and be optimistic instead. The idea being that maybe things will be better tomorrow, maybe we can do [insert whatever you want to do here] tomorrow. The keys make an appearance in the bridge, but it sounds more like piano than synth – and totally fits my acoustic/piano-led vision. A distorted guitar ending leads us into the last song of the album which is titled Sink. More of those lovely jangly guitars that we heard at the beginning of the album can be heard here, accompanied by subtle Ahh, ahh, ahhs. This is a slow paced and ethereal song that deals with a pretty tricky subject matter. Sink is about having a friend who is struggling, being a listener, wanting but not forcing them to get better and most of all wanting to show how much people care about them. The line that particularly stood out to me is ‘There’s no need to apologise for talking this way, Oh I just hope that you will be okay.’ The guitars get slower and slower as the ahh-ahhs fade out to mark the end of the album.

I really liked Happy Accidents’ debut album, You Might Be Right, but I think I was right in my initial presumption that they have taken things to the next level with album number two. Everything But The Here And Now is a great collection of indie pop punk tracks and actually has quite a bit more variety than I was expecting. That said, there is a clear progression from their previous material. It’s great to hear Phoebe taking more of the lead on vocals and songwriting for certain tracks but it’s also great how each musician has developed in their own right.

Check out Everything But The Here And Now when it is released on 16th February on Alcopop! Records and in the meantime, check out the video for Wait It Out and A Better Plan here.

You can also like Happy Accidents on Facebook.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

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