Album Review: The Happy Alright – Vacancies EP

As a thirty-something fan of pop-punk, I find myself often rolling my eyes at other music enthusiasts who seem to think that I’m a little old for the genre. While it’s hard not to feel like that sometimes, especially when I’m at a pop-punk concert and look around to see that, aside from parents, I might be the oldest person in the crowd, I try not to let it bother me. I’ve been a fan of the genre since I first started exploring my own musical tastes and, if anything, I feel like my love for the genre has only grown as I’ve gotten older. While I would agree that some of the current pop-punk acts out there are a little too saccharine for my liking, and that a lot of bands in the genre can sound exactly the same, I will say that every once in a while you stumble across a diamond in the rough. Enter Dallas quartet, The Happy Alright, who know how to keep the edge in their sound that allows them to stand out.

For starter’s, The Happy Alright don’t look to simply emulate the acts that came before them, but instead use it as a jumping off point to explore their own musical ideas. It wasn’t surprising to find out in the interview I did with the guys that they all draw influence from a myriad of different genres. This mixed with the sheer amount of growth you can hear from their last release, Esperando (which was released just a year ago), make it easy to see why The Happy Alright are a cut above the rest.

It was pretty clear to me from opening track, “Church Steps,” that Vacancies wasn’t just another pop-punk album that would blend in with all the rest out there. The track is a slow burn and seems to draw more from indie rock and a little bit of emo than anything else. The simple guitar riff that opens the track mixed with Sterling Gavinski’s soft vocals drew me in immediately. “Church Steps” allows the emotion to build slowly until the last minute or so when the guys completely let go. It’s a great way to kick of the EP and announce the band’s arrival to the scene.

The guys don’t let the energy at the end of “Church Steps” go to waste, using it catapult you into the second track, “Flower.” The track begs for you to learn the lyrics quickly so you can sing along at the top of your lungs as soon as possible. You won’t get a moment to breath when the snarling guitar riff that carries “Throwing Darts” tears through your headphones. It’s this lovely mix of heavy and light, dark and bright that makes Vacancies’ third track an instant hit and quite possibly my favorite track on the EP (though honestly it’s a pretty tough call).

It’s easy to see why the guys chose “Parking Garage” as the first single and introduction to Vacancies and their new, more refined sound. With it’s cascading guitars and catchy hooks, the track will have you up and thrashing along before the start of the first verse. This is how pop-punk should be done. Vacancies closes out with another perfect example of the genre at its finest. The verses of “Disclosure” are the closest The Happy Alright ever get to the pop side of things with bright and shiny guitars and vocals. If the rest of the EP is about that empty feeling we all get sometimes, “Disclosure” is coming to terms with this feeling and realizing that it’s ok not to know how to fill that hole sometimes which is encapsulated perfectly in the closing lines of the song: “I get the feeling that I know what I want but there’s so much that I don’t know.”

I think the reason I’m so drawn to Vacancies is that it has this odd, nostalgic feel to it. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is, but from the first listen it was like I was reconnecting with a long-lost friend. What I do know is that The Happy Alright have truly found their sound and if they can continue to grow as much as they have in the last year the only place for them to go is up.

You can preorder Vacancies over on Bandcamp.