The Happy Hollows | Spells
Most Likely To: be all things to all people.
Like Harry Potter’s Mirror of Erised, music has the ability to show you “not your face, but your heart’s desire.” When the Happy Hollows christened their latest release Spells, the name worked like magic, because Spells reflects whatever the listener eriseds. Spells is the first full-length release from singer/guitarist Sarah Negahdari and her rhythm section, bassist Chris Mahoney and drummer Charles Hernandez, and it comes on the heels of two somewhat shaky EPs. But on this release, the LA-based trio shelves their former, super-simplistic approach in favor of a multi-faceted sonic assault. And lo, success is theirs!
Negahdari draws comparisons to practically every strong female singer working today, from Karen O. to Polly Jean Harvey. But The Happy Hollows encompass a breadth of influences that are bound to sound different to different people. For me, they fearlessly deconstruct college rock circa 1989, rewiring the musical DNA of Hunkpapa-era Throwing Muses while simultaneously channeling The Pixies. Negahdari’s vocals gymnastics are a welcome homage to Hersh, not an outright imitation. Both women share a rare ability: the tone of their voice alone is intense enough to raise the tiny hairs on the back of my neck.
Even though there isn’t a happy ending in sight, Spells is populated with songs that endure, and should sound just as good in five years as they do today. Full of the dark intentions that only minor chords can express, “High Wire” has it all: an incessant bass line, post-punk guitar, and Negahdari’s vocal exclamations. On “Silver,” Negahdari sounds like Black Francis’ lost godchild, an effect that is furthered by her ability to imitate Joey Santiago on guitar. “Monster Room”’s pumped up, creepy melody holds its own against the rolling swells of driving percussion, fist pumping guitar chords, and background shrieks. An epic of call and response between Negahdari and Hernandez’s drum kit, “Lieutenant” first surfaced on the band’s Imaginary EP (2008). The song begins with a martial snare and ends with Negahdari’s angry screed about underground warheads.
If it were up to me, copies of Spells would be as ubiquitous as bottles of Purell or the latest Dan Brown novel. The record is a 13-song sleeper that’s probably never going to get the attention it deserves. Maybe it’s just the Mirror of Erised talking, but I can’t see how talent like Negahdari’s can go unnoticed forever. Although The Happy Hollows worldview may vacillate only from grey to grim, the outlook for their musical future is solidly optimistic.
Listen to “High Wire” from The Happy Hollows: