(This post originally appeared on Tympanogram.com on November 16, 2011)
It’s really great to be a music blogger. I get the chance to listen to a ridiculous amount of music that I would normally not have any clue existed. Sometimes it’s better that way, I mean there’s a lot of crap to sort though, but it’s definitely worth it to find the good stuff. Sometimes, though, the good stuff shows up in my mailbox unsolicited (bands: take note!). I mean my actual, real life, physical mailbox. Portland outfit A Happy Death emailed me and insisted upon sending me their 7″ EP. I’d be stupid to pass up free vinyl. I’m grateful for their generosity and even more grateful that I don’t have to write false praise.
The 4-track self-titled EP is an energetic, reverb soaked garage rock trip. Similar in style to, maybe, The Black Keys in their overdriven guitar sound based squarely in the tradition of blues and surf rock. More direct and tighter than the White Stripes, but in that same realm. Sometimes Ryan Lella’s vocals reminded me a bit of Jack White, but the band seems to be influenced more by older acts like Black Sabbath and The Kinks than anything else.
The garage aesthetic is front and center on “Nazi Zombies” with a dirty riff and vocals echo a bit in the back of the mix. Similar in this vein is “Surf Rock Band,” a track that stomps right on through to the end with a harmonized double guitar solo, each panned hard to either side, that is good and noisy. “Ghost House” picks up the pace a little bit, closing the EP on a strong track. My personal favorite is “Mr. Rutter,” a laid back, minor key ballad with a doo-wop swing and well placed vocal harmonies about a down on his luck transvestite factory worker. The tone of this track isn’t far removed from the rest but the clearer vocals push it a bit more towards the sound of MGMT and their “Congratulations” album that found them exploring the sounds of the early psych rock era mixed with a bit of Motown production. A Happy Death play off of those same vibes of psychedelia that are a little rougher around the edges.
A Happy Death has their sound down. From the guitar work to the reverb soaked vocals to the organ that perpetually toils away in the background adding to the atmosphere. This EP is the real deal and suggested listening for fans of garage and psych rock.
Buy the vinyl! Here.