At this point in the band’s career, there is a certain expectation Taking Back Sunday will deliver on a quality new album. But with any veteran band there’s also the fear of disappointing longtime fans if the new material doesn’t live up to their sky-high expectations. Luckily, for those in either category, Taking Back Sunday have created an incredible work of art with Happiness Is, that will even have old fans rekindling their interest in this dynamic group. The new album showcases the band’s ability to move forward musically without abandoning their signature style.
It is near impossible to listen to this album one time all the way through, because each song is instant repeat material. We’ll look past the first track (which is instrumental only) for the moment, and focus on “Flicker, Fade” – the first single off the album. In this track, Lazzara’s growly vocals deliver exactly what every Taking Back Sunday fan was hoping for in the new album. The song is powerful but not forced. “Flicker, Fade” was the obvious choice for a single as it represents the finest parts of this entire album, showcasing Taking Back Sunday’s trademark impassioned rock. Not to be outdone, the following song, “Stood A Chance” also proves itself to be a standout track; it may be one of the best songs on the entire record. With lines such as “You’re never one for looking back / A body like a punching bag,” these lyrics are arguably the catchiest, likely because they’re combined with a more upbeat melody which readily contrasts with “Flicker, Fade.” It only takes one or two listens before singing along becomes inevitable.
“Better Homes and Gardens” is another key track on Happiness Is. The song ropes in listeners with an unhurried intro that later explodes into emotional power-rock, made all the stronger by the earnest pessimism in the chorus: “But it was all for nothing / yeah it was all a waste.” The second to last song on the album, “We Were Younger Then,” does not close out the album, but it does a perfect job of winding the record down while still simultaneously packing a punch. The track echoes what Taking Back Sunday does best on more morose, older favorites. Although it starts off on a spectacularly slow note, the song picks up quickly and transforms into another all-out smash. With the last track off the record, “Nothing At All,” the band brings down the tempo again, leading into a sweeping outro complete with violins and steady crescendo. Though nothing spectacular lyrically, the song lends a calming finality to the album, the repetition of the word “all” ringing through in a mesmerizing fashion.
Happiness Is proves to be a masterful album with songs held up to clearly high standards. Although most, if not all, tracks have the possibility to be singles, the cohesiveness of the record and the album listening experience as a whole shows the talent the band has in not just creating knockout songs, but in crafting a truly impressive project. The best part is the unlikelihood that every fan will have the same favorite song, which only goes to highlight the practiced versatility that has made Taking Back Sunday so well loved.