REVIEW: Superhuman Happiness - Escape Velocity

Will Shenton

Predictability is the death of music.

Well, that's a bit of a melodramatic overstatement, but you probably know what I mean. Predictable music is the worst, and it's been proven time and again that we draw the most enjoyment from progressions and instrumentation that surprise us (to a certain extent, of course). And that's exactly why Superhuman Happiness' latest LP Escape Velocity has left such a lasting impression on me—it seems like every decision was made for the explicit purpose of subverting the listener's expectations.

With most bands, by the time you make it through the first chorus you've heard more or less what you're going to get for the rest of the song. Superhuman Happiness, however, make a point of using any given phrase as sparingly as possible. On "Middle Ground," for example, the second half of the track barely resembles the first at all, but the transitions are executed so flawlessly that it nonetheless feels like a single, cohesive whole.

Even when they're sticking to a relatively conventional structure (such as on the upbeat "Date & Time), the brazen textures and movements are captivating. Every subtlety feels intentional, and I found myself grinning at multiple points throughout the album simply because I felt like I was in on a joke. "Oh, you thought we were going to reprise that verse? Ha!"

As an aside, I have to commend these guys for their use of horns (most evident on "Drawing Lines"). So often I feel like horn sections are either self-deprecating ska references, or worse, hopelessly sincere attempts to make a song sound artificially triumphant. But on Escape Velocity, they're used as simple accents. They certainly indulge for a few measures, but it's over before it can become a gimmick. The only other group I've heard do it as well in recent memory is Los Campesinos!, and even they require a little wink at the camera to pull it off.

I realize that this is less a review than it is a five-paragraph gush, but sometimes I simply don't have anything bad to say about a record. Superhuman Happiness is genuinely captivating, and their latest effort is something special. I highly recommend that even the most jaded among you it a listen.