Releasing a fantastic first album can be a double edged sword. On one hand, it’s a great way to announce your arrival to the musical scene and make people take notice of your talent. On the other hand, it’s going to be tough to meet those expectations again. Tell All Your Friends was a phenomenal first release from Taking Back Sunday, but it created a lot of expectations. Fans immediately put the album up on a pedestal and no album that TBS has released since has come close in their eyes. The band has seen numerous shakeups over the years, but when original members John Nolan and Shaun Cooper were added back to the lineup in 2010, fans held out hope that the band’s next album would be a repeat of Tell All Your Friends. Many were disappointed. The sound was a mix of classic TBS and Straylight Run, a band that Cooper and Nolan founded in their time away from TBS. Personally, I really enjoyed the album and consider it one of their best.
I think fans will be a bit more pleased with Happiness Is. Their main issue with the band’s self-titled album was that it was closer to a Straylight Run album than Taking Back Sunday. Happiness Is brings back the edge that made a lot of people fall in love with the band in the first place. The first single off the album, “Flicker, Fade”, kicks off with big guitars before dying down and allowing Adam Lazzara’s vocals to take center stage. This song is a great showcase of what these guys do best and that’s creating a song that you can sing at the top of your lungs with friends. It was the perfect first single to release to show fans that this album was what they’ve been waiting for.
Keeping up with successful single releases to get fans excited for the ablum, the band released “Stood a Chance”. It’s on the poppier side of the TBS musical spectrum, along with another classic “Timberwolves At New Jersey”. It’s easily the catchiest track on the album, perfect for blaring out of your car window during the summer. Crave the harder side of the spectrum? No worries, “Beat Up Car” and “Better Home and Gardens”. “Beat Up Car” features high pitched guitars and a driving bass while Lazzara and Nolan trade off vocals and harmonies. “Better Home and Garden” is a biting song about scorned love. “So just go on / That house that you hate / That house that we bought / And failed to make / It was all for nothing / It was all a waste / And now you’ll never be happy”. Lazzara’s voice becomes increasingly raw with emotion as the song progresses building to a scream of an ending.
All in all, I think this album will make fans, both old and new, very happy. It’s what fans of Tell All Your Friends have been waiting for as well as moving the band forward rather than simply putting out the same music over and over. I’m also noticing that I fall more and more in love with it with each listen. Hopefully this will help Taking Back Sunday break free of that perfect first album curse that has been following them around for most of their career.