3 out of 5
Label: Secretly Canadian
Produced by: The Horns of Happiness (?)
Delightfully loose but with a sustained momentum rare to this type of jangle, The Horns of Happiness ‘A Sea As A Shore’ is a mix of – I’d almost say purposefully – underwhelming charm with splashes of Pavement angularity and a cycling mish-mash of sounds to keep it burbling, yet consistent. While switching up a song’s approach multiple times intra-track, Aaron Deer and crew somehow find tonal throughlines that work, making it seem very cohesive. But these aren’t forefronted melodies – a weird plus / minus of the disc, with tunes that are elusive, giving them an appealing mystery… but also preventing them from becoming memorable – rather, Horns of Happiness just come across as compositors of organic sounds, guitar lines and keys and horns jumping in with quirky rhythms at different times, appearing as natural progressions from one another. Deer’s yearning vocal line is similarly rather underwhelming, but it sits at the right layer for the music, his lyrics vague musings on blissed out nature-fied relationships and whatnot – also about right for the summer night vibe of the record.
This weird composite of DIY random and tuneful makes it addictive in its own way – the album promising something new with each track – but the group loses the thread past the midway point, slipping into more common jangle with The Blood Trail Pt. I, and sticking there for a few tracks, dropping the mish-mash for more straightforward folksy tunes. Pleasant, but lacking the subtle thrill. Thankfully, they pop back in at the end with the excellent Bursting Breathe and The Return, before the final track lays down some keys that loop back around to the opening sound, trying to get you to go for round 2.
Which, A Sea As A Shore doesn’t necessarily demand, being all chill and all, but if you let if play again, that dash of excitement remains in effect for the album’s first half or so of tracks.