Remove ads, unlock a dark mode theme, and get other perks by upgrading your account. Experience the website the way it's meant to be.

The Sidekicks – Happiness Hours

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, May 17, 2018.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    Happiness Hours should go down as one of the great pop artifacts of 2018. It may not be suited for Top 40, but it checks all the boxes of a great pop album. Frontman Steve Ciolek has mastered the art of turning highly personalized lyrics into something absorbing and universal; like a DIY Matt Berninger, he possesses the songwriting ability to make anyone nostalgic for a specific time in their life while distinctly singing about his own. An exercise in duality, the album’s guitars are sunny and clean, except for when they go down a darker, more distorted path. Happiness Hours presents pop music in two different lights, equally as weird and ambitious as it is bright and polished, often within the same four minute song.

    Experimentation, youth, and the unwanted changes that come with growing up are common themes throughout the album. References to “caps and gowns” are made on the explosive “Other People’s Pets,” a red herring of an opener that is decidedly faster and heavier than almost anything else on the record. Halfway through its 90-second runtime, the song bursts into the kind of undeniable vocal melody Ciolek is known for, acting as a proper buffer between Happiness Hours and 2015’s sleeper hit Runners in the Nerved World. Later, on the blissful single “Twins Twist,” guitarist Toby Reif lays a bed of shimmering, mid-tempo guitars to soundtrack Ciolek’s memories of gravity bongs and a “Chronic 2000 high school state of mind:”

    The high keeps you on the ground
    When your favorite one in town isn’t around
    Kissing other people and trying not to fall in love
    Dancing in the darkness, but in the daytime, it’s just a shrug

    This time around, Ciolek shows restraint with the falsetto that helped earn the band so many comparisons to Band of Horses and The Shins, only really utilizing it to underline some already impeccable melodies (such as the chorus of “Mix For a Rainy Day”). Later, in that same song, Ciolek delivers a weathered bridge filled with that specialized-yet-universal longing, immediately granting the song new weight and dimension:

    I wanna sit your roof again
    Not talk about people or friends
    Listen to ice cubes clinking, and planes
    Amazed how without touching, we touch each other’s brains

    The band also tips their collective hat to previously unheard influences. “I felt insane on Lover’s Lane,” starts Ciolek in “Win Affection,” a bouncy piece of jangle-pop pulled straight from The Smiths’ songbook. With a Morrissey-like cadance, he continues:

    Less dog with tail between its legs
    More like my guts are on display
    Food out on a tray, but I can’t eat it
    Doesn’t that sound defeated?

    And that’s not the only nod to pop’s original depressive crooner; the danciest song here is about, well, not feeling like dancing. But the irresistible power-pop of “Don’t Feel Like Dancing” blazes more trails than one, saving room for a grin-inducing guitar solo – a trend continued on the next track, “Weed Tent.”

    Fortunately for us, The Sidekicks never really stop trying new things here, from the shape-shifting tempo of “Serpent in a Sun Drought” to the hyper-literal balladry of the album’s title track. Tucked within its winning closing sequence is “Medium in the Middle,” a back half highlight that follows up on the propulsive energy hinted at in the album’s opening track. Here, Ciolek is at wit’s end, hearing “Hotline Bing’ on constant loop’ and having to explain that, no, he’s not straight-edge, he just already has a headache while turning down booze. But then, a refrain, as the band comes down from the album’s highest point and cools down with the acoustic chords of “Happiness Hours.” Jolting us back to the present, Ciolek reflects on some of his strangest thought processes, about giant white crosses and giant white cross companies, before delivering the album’s ultimate coda: “So if happiness comes in hours/Well it looks like it’s that time for me again.”

    Somewhere between Weatherbox’s Flies in All Directions and The Hotelier’s Goodness lies Happiness Hours, an album so reliant on basic human experience that it seems impossible not to relate to some of these songs. As is the case with many of pop’s finest, you come for the hooks and you stay for that unexpected depth that you really ought to expect by now, and as a follow-up to Runners in the Nerved World, The Sidekicks have crafted something perhaps less immediate, but certainly bigger and better in a way only the best sequels can be. In our fairest timeline, Happiness Hours is the kind of album that will unite listeners regardless of genre classifications, as it seemingly transcends a number of them without even trying.

  2. I truly loved writing about this record
  3. Battery


    And it shows! Great review.
  4. Thanks for reading!
    Collin Skeen likes this.
  5. EarthShifts


    Loved this. I can’t wait to listen to this when I wake up.
    Collin Skeen and Aaron Mook like this.
  6. Elder Lightning

    A lightning bolt without a cloud in the sky Supporter

    An album after my own heart!

    Excellent review @Aaron Mook, can’t wait to listen to this album.
    Collin Skeen and Aaron Mook like this.
  7. Thanks!! Can't wait to read your thoughts!
    Collin Skeen and KidLightning like this.
  8. fourstarters

    Team Wiggum

    This rules. I’m so glad that a band that used to play a ridiculously good cover of “Roots Radical” as high school kids is putting out their second record for Epitaph 15 years later. I hope everyone loves this record as much as you do, Aaron.
    Collin Skeen and Aaron Mook like this.
  9. fourstarters

    Team Wiggum

    Speaking of, their cover closes this set filmed at Delay’s 20th Anniversary Show in Lakewood, OH. They reunited the “So Long, Soggy Dog” era lineup for this and ripped through 30 minutes worth of a set. Highly recommend.
    Collin Skeen likes this.
  10. EarthShifts


    I love this album so much. Definite album of the summer for me.
    Collin Skeen and Aaron Mook like this.
  11. Hazelnutsack