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Albums Of The Week: The Happy Fits | Under The Shade Of Green

The cello-centric New Jersey pop-rockers go big on their vibrantly coloured third LP.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:The Happy Fits’ third full-length is a massive leap forward for the New Jersey trio, who have already built a serious following with their energetic and electrifying pop-rock style. At once a showcase of rock-solid songcraft and gleeful experimentation, Under The Shade Of Green is a deceptively bright opus that also zooms in on the anxieties and catastrophes of daily life while never losing its irresistibly hooky attitude.

Under The Shade Of Green is the latest chapter in The Happy Fits’ impressive rise, dating back to their bonding in high school in 2012. Cellist Calvin Langman and guitarist Ross Monteith started playing covers together in earnest, and when Langman revealed some original songs he’d been working on, drummer Luke Davis came aboard to join in a creative genesis that would result in the Awfully Apeelin’ EP from 2016.

After Awfully Apeelin’s While You Fade Away scored prominent playlist placements, the trio dropped out of college to focus on the band full-time; by the time the group’s debut album Concentrate was released in 2018, they’d amassed a growing following. After that album, the band hit the road two years before recording their second album What Could Be Better, which saw release in 2020 and was written with the band’s live audience in mind.

“We wanted a record that would be really electric live,” Langman explained — but right when the band was ready to hit the road behind it, the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Undeterred, The Happy Fits got resourceful and staged livestreams for fans on their accounts, embracing a “crazy variety show” vibe that included turning their couch into a puppet and, eventually, making a music video for every song off What Could Be Better.

And Under The Shade Of Green reflects the band’s changing perspectives through the last few years — how they’ve grown, what they’ve learned, and how to face the uncertainties that are yet to come. “A lot of our earlier stuff was centered around my coming of age,” Langman reflects. “The pandemic made me take a step back from my personal experiences. It felt like a weird time to just continue writing about myself.”

Sonically, Under The Shade Of Green is bold and vibrant, spanning the multifarious sounds of modern indie rock and gentle psychedelic touches that feel fuzzy in all the right ways. “We could really sit and experiment with these songs, and make them the best they could be,” Davis explains while talking about the five-month recording process behind the album. “We always strive to sound more than a three-piece,” Monteith adds. “Our goal was to make this album sound larger than the last, and I think we accomplished that.”

The swinging Little One was inspired by British singer-songwriter Tom Rosenthal’s own songs written for his daughter — a concept that, through Langman’s songwriting perspective, becomes a call to all those feeling uncertain about their place in the world. “A lot of these songs are trying to hit on universal concepts,” he explained. “I wanted to try to write a song like that — a song that tells people that they belong.”

With a massive anthemic sway and surging synth chorus, Changes aptly took many shapes during the recording process, reflecting the constantly-in-motion times in which the band was working. “It developed entirely through the recording process,” Monteith explains. “It had completely different lyrics and a different riff when we first recorded it.”

“Things changed so rapidly during the pandemic that it was hard to keep up,” Langman continues while talking about the song’s themes. “I started to get a little bit down on the world, but it’s a pretty dark path to go down if you’re nihilistic about everything. So the song’s about trying to find love in a world that’s very much on fire.”

From the punchy Dance Alone to the serpentine riffs of Do Your Worst, Under The Shade Of Green finds The Happy Fits unloading earworm after earworm — even as darkness looms, as suggested by the album’s cover of a pineapple covered in flaming money. “It’s a metaphor for what we are all seeing and not talking about enough,” Langman says, reflecting on the album’s overall arc. If these songs don’t make you feel alive — well, you might just want to check your pulse.”