The Happy Hollows: Spells

RIYL: Deerhoof, The Pixies, Q and not U

The Happy Hollows’ world as laid out on their debut full-length album, Spells, is inhabited by monsters, horses, flowers that turn into radios, and all sorts of other colorful characters, both real and imaginary. Such is the place sometimes referred to as Negahdariland, the namesake inner world of the Happy Hollows’ mistress-mind, singer/guitarist Sarah Negahdari.

This psychedelic punk approach radiates excitement of narcotic addictiveness, given a solid driving force by powerhouse drummer Chris Hernandez and nimble bassist Charlie Mahoney, whose often trebly bass lines jump over Sarah’s rhythm guitar to tag team on melody duty, most effectively so on opener “Faces,” on which Sarah declares that she’s trying to “escape from great expectations.” This is the only failure evident on Spells – after three years of high-energy live shows and two solid EPs that hinted at what a full Happy Hollows album could achieve, the band has actually met expectations and produced the most exciting debut album of the year. Props to ex-Mighty Lemon Drop David Newton for capturing the band’s live vibe while also making room for subtle decorations, like the tastefully placed violin in “Turtle and Hare” and “Second Lieutenant,” and punctuating several songs with Sarah’s adorably idiosyncratic background vocals.

You can feel the band smiling and having fun throughout all 14 of the album’s songs, and unconsciously injecting a renewed vitality into punk that has been lost in so many other quarters due to over-production and too many layers of polish. On Spells, the band got it just right. Prepare to fall in love. (Happy Hollows 2009)

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