Van She - Idea of Happiness

Van She - Idea of Happiness

Van She have made fans of 2008’s V wait exactly four years for their long-awaited follow-up album. While V certainly had its moments, including the 80s synth-pop gems ‘Kelly’ and ‘Cat & the Eye’, probably no one expected the sophomore album to be quite this good.

To put this in perspective, when reviewing an album I make sure I listen to it quite a few times as some albums take a while, so as to not write some off as bad unfairly. Listening for five or so spins can be a drag for some albums, while others - such as Van She’s Idea of Happiness - are an absolute pleasure. I have listened to this around 15 times in the same time frame I would listen to an album that I’d give a fairly good review to five times.

Idea of Happiness is the 2012 Australian surprise packet of the year from my point of view. That’s not to disrespect Van She by any stretch, but with the reputations of “the difficult second album” and the lengthy delay in delivery, I had never expected the album to be of such great quality. While the synth and other era influences are certainly still present, the band have managed to create a far more contemporary record that still sounds nothing quite like anything else on the Australian music scene at the moment.

The title track kicks off the buoyant mood of the disc with an upbeat positive sound, which is unmistakably a beach/summer anthem. I often find that an album’s cover art influences the way you consume it as a whole. In this instance the eclectic nature of the images, loud colours and arrangement look rather like what this song and most of the album sound like. Making the music and cover match is an important aspect of an album, one that is sometimes sorely and unfortunately overlooked.

‘Sarah’ is again fast-tempo and positive, yet with a more sing-along and synth-based chorus. ‘Coconuts’ is the most unconventional and experimental song so far, but is still very accessible, most likely even from the point of view of a purely pop music fan.

‘Calypso’ is probably my favourite track on the album - I say probably because there are quite a few that are really enjoyable and it is quite difficult to pick just one. The album as a whole is very solid and I rate it highly, yet there are some you’ll probably quite clearly enjoy more than others. ‘Calypso’ summons the sound of Friendly Fires latest album, Pala, and in particular my favourite song from that album, ‘Hawaiian Air’.

‘We Move On’ is another stand out track, one that is rather slow for the most part, but is quite experimental all the same. There are quite a few sounds going on at once and the track clearly benefits from attention to detail. ‘Jamaica’ is a South American montage of a song, one that is brilliant, yet unfortunately doesn’t feel it reaches its potential until exactly halfway through.

Idea of Happiness is an absolute gem of an album that transcends eras and genres, and its inherent experimentation sounds fresh while at the same time accessible and is always engaging. If you’re after an excuse to support Australian music, I urge you to go out and buy this album, because regardless of what genres fill up your music library, I honestly don’t think you couldn’t like this record.
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