For Chicago quartet YAWN, Happy Tears acts as a follow-up to their excellent 2011 debut, Open Season. The free EP continues in their psychedelic pop vein, the music captured in the swirls of light and rainbow portals that pervade their videos and other visuals. This is a band that works exclusively (and well) in neon, drinking sips of whatever bubbling, Technicolored brew gave Yeasayer and Animal Collective their powers. To be sure, though, they don’t work the chaotic element that Animal Collective does, nor do they go down Yeasayer’s proggy ballad route. Though similar in many ways, on Happy Tears, YAWN works out their own particular brand of swirling psych-pop.
Opener “Ganymede” sets the record straight right away; though the mystic autoharp plinks, synth washes, and simple, tribal-y drum pattern sound familiar, unexpected flourishes are thrown in. The vocals never stray from the pure falsetto and a crunchy, distorted guitar riff plays the counterpoint to the shimmery stuff, rather than indulging the Odd Blood spaciness. “Take It With Me” follows similarly, a melody seemingly chopped straight out of a Panda Bear track, smooth, nod-able passages intersecting with heavily percussive, dance-y sections. The sentimental sugariness of “Things that I love/ I can take them with me” falls in line with the verses of “My Girls”, but this is no copycat. The groove is too organic, waves of backing vocals washing over splashy cymbals, a strutting guitar gliding throughout.
The nostalgia of “Momma’s Boy” slows things down, a slow-burning ballad of change and progress. Moans of feedback somehow morph magically into slithery synths, everything wrapped into a backwards loop of something that sounds like a melodica. The harmonies are as strong here as ever, the four-piece coming together like an expressive, spacey choir. This break never quite ramps back up, leaving the instrumental closer “Yabis” to make do. The lack of those lush vocals and clear melody don’t do YAWN any favors, leaving their bread and butter behind for a fairly nondescript, amorphous groove. However, when these four find their melodies, they find themselves in rare company, hitting highs that match their apparent inspirations.
Essential Tracks: “Ganymede”, “Take It With Me”